January 30, 2008 NYTimes.com article
The Curious Cook: Dip Once or Dip Twice?
by Harold McGee
A scientific report, inspired by an episode of “Seinfeld,” may cause football fans to take a second look at that communal bowl of dip.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
January 30, 2008 NYTimes.com article
Monday, January 28, 2008
Four reviewers: ts, js, csc and cw
I've never been to Chambar but have always wanted to go. I've only heard good things about it.
The place was huge! (Well, relatively huge.) It was really nice inside too. Reds, browns... very warm & a little cozy inside despite the size.
Chambar is one restaurant I've always wanted to try ever since they opened. When I saw their menu, it seemed to me they were doing more "exciting"/"hip"/"trendy" food.
Laziness, stinginess and the refusal to pay for parking has always won out though, and well, I haven't gotten around to it (in 3 years?) until this week. At $25, the Dine Out menu seemed to offer good value.
We were approximately 15 minutes late making our 5:00pm reservation. (Yes, we're becoming seniors, eating at such an early evening hour!) We had some problems finding the place and so had to spring for valet parking to avoid being extremely late. When we got to the restaurant, the hostess told us that we have to get out of there by 6:30 , as the next seating is set for that time. When I hear something like that, I get a tad whingy. See, I do not need to be told we had to get out at a certain time. Restaurants should just *not* tell customers they need to leave, because it irritates customers. Don't they think? Because, really, the time it takes the customer to finish their meal is dependent on the restaurant is dependent and the pace of the service. That is, the time it takes for the customer to eat is in the hands of the restaurant, the kitchen, and the wait staff. Most people do not eat slowly.
So, please, refrain from telling me this unncessary info. I certainly do not mind a faster pace of service. In fact, I prefer a faster pace instead of a slower one myself. I am not a lingerer and do not really like to linger after my table's been cleared.
(We did get out of there at around 6:40 , but we could have gotten out of there earlier if they had been faster with the bill. We sat there for ten minutes waiting for them to bring back the bill.)
Anyways, had to get that off my chest. I don't penalize restaurants for these minor points, because it's all about the food. Efficient and slightly impersonal service does it for me. I don't like overly familiar or overly friendly service in restaurants.
On to the food!
La Soupe de Mais et Crabe
Roasted corn & crab soup. "Piment d'espelette".
-- or --
La Salade d'Hiver
Belgium endive & watercress salad, cranberry & vanilla vinaigrette, star anise fig crostini.
-- or --
Carpaccio de Chevreuil
Venison carpaccio, roasted garlic & horseradish tapenade, golden yukon crisps, baby arugula.
csc and cw both chose the soup.
I had the crab and corn soup. Pretty tasty. I liked it.
This was a very nice appetizer, it sure got my appetite started! i only wish that there was more! i only remember the corn, not so much the crab. a more generous serving would have been appreciated!
For starters, I had the venison carpaccio. It was presented beautifully, on a rectangular plate, all red disks like that. Different from the usual round carpaccio presentation.
I wish I had more arugula: I had at most 3 LEAVES of arugula. The dressing for the carpaccio is slightly sweet, which I didn't like all that much. I would have preferred something more acidic.
Horseradish is always nice, although I don't like it that much with the sweetish roasted garlic combination.
I had the carpaccio as well. Again, I seem unable to resist raw red meat on a menu. ;)
I must say that the venison was sliced extremely well! That is, they were all uniform in size and thickness. I was impressed. The meat looked good as well. Nice and red; fresh-looking. It was also dressed well.
Of course, the yukon gold crisps were good (how can they not be) and the arugula was nice. There was only a little bit of the roasted garlic/horseradish tapenade, which was fine since that preparation was just "OK" for me; I didn't really look for it. All in all, satisfying.
Mussels cooked with a tomato coconut cream, smoked chili & lime, fresh cilantro.
-- or --
Boeuf Braise a la Kriek
Bellevue Kriek braised beef shortribs, hazelnut pomme puree, sour cherry compote.
-- or --
Truite et Ravioli
Absinthe butter crusted ruby trout, roasted pepper & goat cheese ravioli, citrus herb shaved fennel.
I had the beef shortribs. I thought it was going to look like the Korean beef shortribs (with bones and meat) but it was just a chunk of meat.
It was good, except, that day, I had roast beef for breakfast and for lunch (and actually roast beef for dinner the night before). So I was all “beef-ed” out. Couldn’t finish it. The mashed potatoes were good.
The meal wasn’t huge, which was perfect coz my belly can’t hold so much food now that baby’s taking up more space hahaha!
For my main, I had the trout. I didn't like the fact that the skin was not crispy and was all soft and limp. For something "crusted," it didn't really have any crunch at all.
I liked the fennel salad, as it was cool and refreshing. It picked up the fennel, anise-y flavours of the "crust" on the trout. The dressing was not really really citrus-y, as far as I remember, because I would have liked it more citrus-y to balance the anise-y flavours. Too much anise is a little bit intoxicating, cloying.
The dish overall was too anise-y for my tastes. Something to have "grounded" the anise flavours would have been nice. And needed.
I had the trout as well. (JS copied my orders!)
I didn't mind the non-crispy skin. Fish was cooked well. I don't know if I tasted the absinthe flavour; all I know was that the "crust" was crumb-y and salty and worked with the fish.
The fennel was a nice addition, although I wished it had more acid (and perhaps a touch more seasoning). The ravioli was really nicely done as well: flavorful filling, nice pasta.
8.5/10 - well done.
the trout was very tender and the skin was easily removed which is a plus! it wasn't fishy at all. also, i love goat cheese, so this was mostly why i chose this dish as my entree. the ravioli was also quite good.
same comment as with the soup... fast forward a few hours later... i was hungry! so again, i wish there was more trout and some more ravioli for the "filling" factor. but all in all, i think it was a good deal for $25!
A note about the mussels (which none of us ordered).
It looked HUGE!!! It came in a black covered pot. A pretty big one, considering it's for one person. There was a guy in the party beside us who ordered it. When the server uncovered the pot, the smells from the dish came wafting our way. It smelled REALLY good!
Also, throughout our meal, CSC observed that it was taking the guy QUITE A WHILE to get through his mussels dish! And this with a lot of shells already discarded on his shell-plate.
Same observation when I was on my way to the washroom near the end of the meal. I saw people with lots of discarded shells on their side plate, and still a number of mussels inside the pot! The broth also came to about 1/2 of the pot (or 1.3, let's say).
Pretty generous serving, that mussels dish. (Unless there's some sort of voodoo with that pot, it was really big.)
So next time, perhaps someone will order a mussels dish. =)
(The only "problem" I can think of is how is one supposed to eat all that mussels and broth without RICE?! Haha. Because it would just be eating ALL MUSSELS, ALL THE TIME! )
This was "OK". I guess I expected more since this *is* a Belgian restaurant!
Actually, there was a "shelf" taste to the pommes frites. ("Shelf" taste = stale taste)
I don't know if I'm convinced that that was the paprika sprinkled onto the frites (as per JS's suggestion).
I agree with ts. The fries had that “old” starch taste of like old rice… something was not quite right about it.
7/10 - aside from the seasoning, this was very much like the fries at earls or cactus club, so i wasn't impressed. i think the "fries" from bistro bistrot have set the bar for fries for me at least. i wouldn't mind another bucket of fries from there.
Yeah, those pommes allumettes from Bistrot Bistro were good. =D
Pear & Passionfruit Nectar, with thyme
Grapefruit Juice and ___? with___?
I always give extra points for places that spend just a little time mixing up non-alcoholic drinks. (Like Parkside! And Chow too. Chow was good too. )
I had the Pear/Passionfruit drink. It was not bad. I still like pineapple juice the best, hehe. =D
I had a sip of this, and was completely reminded of cough syrup. I didn’t like any of the drinks at all. Good thing I stuck with water.
JS had the Grapefruit one. I don't remember what was in it. She didn't like it that much, she said.
Belgian waffle, housemade vanilla ice cream & warm chocolate sauce.
-- or --
Pot de crème
Matcha pot de creme, lemon sable & blueberry compote.
-- or --
Daily cheese, spiced quince jam & toasted fig bread.
The waffle, with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce: very good.
But I like pastries with ice cream always. Chocolate was darker than milk chocolate, so everything was of the good.
The only thing I can say is the waffle really didn't have a lot of flavour for me. I expected it to be more delicious and able to stand on its own.
I had the waffles.
When we arrived, I actually just wanted dessert right away, no more appetizers and main course because it was 530 PM!! I think my lunch was still not quite digested!
But the waffles were pretty good. I could’ve done with lots more ice cream =D
I had the pot de creme. I really love creme brulees, pots de cremes... so nice. =)
Anyway, this had a nice macha flavor. I could've done with MORE macha flavor, but I think that's just the Chinese in me talking.
The blueberry compote was nice too; it wasn't too sweet. However, I think the pot de creme would've fared better without the blueberry. But I guess they felt they had to add another component to the dessert so it wouldn't be too plain.
9/10 - i'm not usually a dessert person, so this was a very nice surprise.
the pot de creme was very light, being not very sweet, and the combination of the compote was perfect. the cookie was also very good as it wasn't sugary or buttery as well.
the pot de creme and cookie were both so good that i'd probably return to the restaurant just for this dessert!
Service: 7/10 -
once they're at your table, they're very good. but at times, it was difficult to flag them down when we needed something.
Ambience: 7/10 -
i just wish the table was more comfortable... well, the view wasn't bad though.
I would return to this restaurant to try their other dishes. Very intrigued by the mussels in Congolaise sauce. The space is very "hip," very "trendy," and you get the feeling they hire servers and staff for their looks mostly.
Food: about a 6/10. Could be better, but I'm not holding it against them.
I think this was one of the better Dine Out experiences I've had. And it really is such a good deal at $25 for the whole meal. (See above re Mussels, haha.)
Non-food-wise, I don't there was anything seriously amiss during the meal.
My rating's higher: 7.5/10 (Points off because of *you*, pommes frites!)
But yes, would return.
I wish we could do the dine-out again (I mean, go and have dine-out prices again) so I can try the mussels and if it was too much mussels not be too worried if I don’t finish. I hope the mussels are “safe” for pregnant women (aren’t they when cooked??)
but might be higher if I hadn’t forgotten that I had beef, beef, beef(!) already the whole day’s meals.
I would return to try some other things on the menu. maybe pair it with a beer or something!
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Dine Out menu: http://www.lavalleerestaurant.com/menus/dine_out_vancouver_menu.pdf
Two reviewers: ts and js
I liked their breads. Served warm with nice "crispy", crackly thin crust. These were rolls, by the way.
Dungeness Crab Bisque with Whipped Pernod Crème
-- or --
Olive Oil Poached Wild Mushroom Ravioli topped with a Tomato, Basil Confit
Points for poaching the ravioli in olive oil: I like the bubbles and the texture fat-cooking gives to food. Unfortunately, the poaching did not really add anything to the flavour of the ravioli -- overall quite a tasteless dish.
The tomatoes did not really taste like tomatoes, didn't have the brightness, acidity, sweetness of tomatoes, and I did not get any basil at all. No whiff, no flavour, no thing. The salad that came with it was very very dull: I forget if there was even vinaigrette or any kind of dressing on it.
Were there mushrooms inside the pasta? Did not taste anything at all.
Very, very dull.
I had the same dish. The ravioli actually reminded me of a perogie; the dough seemed a little dense and chewy. I didn't mind that at all, though. I liked that sort of hearty, chewy texture. (It just wasn't that revaioli-like.)
I was a little surprised that the ravioli was "fried" because I assumed the poaching in olive oil would be a gentle process that would not yield that "fried" look/texture. But again, I didn't mind that.
What I did mind was the overall blandness of the dish. The filling -- which I think was a mixture of mushroom and ricotta -- was very bland and flavourless. It wasn't even an underseasoned mushroom filling. I just couldn't taste the mushrooms at all.
There was a salad with the dish and it only had oil (no acid) and no salt. The one element that had some flavor was the tomato confit. At least you can taste it. As for the basil, I think there was basil oil on the plate, but I didn't really taste it.
The dish wasn't objectionable, but that's because there was too little flavor/taste for anything in it to offend.
Braised Alberta Beef Short Rib
Butter Tossed White and Green Asparagus, Red Wine, Veal Reduction
-- or --
Pan Seared Wild B.C Salmon
Over top a Baby New Potato and Haricot Vert Salad, Grape Tomato and Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette
-- or --
Honey, Balsamic Marinated Roasted Cornish Game Hen
Yukon Gold Potato Rondelle, Winter Vegetable Medley
I did not like my salmon at all. Again, it was very, very boring (I feel like I could do a better salmon dish).
There are no other flavours besides the salmon, which I found too fishy tonight. I like salmon in general, but I could not finish this dish. Part of it is I'm full -- but I would have pushed through if the flavours were there.
It was advertised as having an olive vinaigrette and I did not get any kind of vinaigrette. The olives would have added another dimension to the dish. A much needed flavour boost.
The Cornish Game Hen. Ah yes. It tasted like adobo chicken! (Philippine-style adobo chicken.)
Sadly, not quite as flavorful as your typical adobo. (And I should know, because we actually have adobo chicken at home and I had a little bit of that for lunch!)
The hen was also a tad dry. In any case, it didn't seem like the acid from the dish was balsamic-tasting. I also didn't get the honey flavor. The yukon gold potato round was nice though. Overall, underwhelming.
Oh, I tasted the beef and that was pretty good. At least, it was the most flavorful among the 3 entrees.
Merlot Poached Bartlett Pear Candied Pecans and Vanilla Cream
-- or --
Trio of Local Cheese’sServed with House Made Preserves
Cheese plate -- well, nothing to write home about. 3 extremely small pieces of regular, all-too-common cheeses. Again, very dull.
The poached pear was nice. It wasn't too mushy and it had a nice cinnamon flavor. As Grace also pointed out during dinner, it wasn't sickeningly sweet as well. The vanilla cream didn't really have an impact, but the candied pecans were very nice. So yehey, at least the meal ended relatively well. For me, at least.
The restaurant advertises itself as "wine country cuisine," which I assume to be Napa wine country. It tasted like -- no, it didn't taste like -- anything at all. Just very, very boring spa cuisine. Really disappointing.
I was disappointed. The website states that their Executive Chef was ex-French Laundry, so I was really expecting something good. It really didn't deliver. I don't know if this is a function of it being a "Dine Out" meal or not. In other notes, the service was pretty good. The interior of the restaurant was also warm and inviting. They also had really nice comfortable chairs! =)
But, it's all about the food, and it didn't cut it.
I guess rating is about 3-ish/10, let's say, because of the poached pear & the beef.
Very, very boring.
I'm not as forgiving of this restaurant as I am of Nyala, because they hype themselves up so much! If they have the nerve to hype themselves up, they should deliver on the hype.
For a chef from French Laundry, I am very surprised at the level of food that we got tonight. This was boring, very mediocre food. Granted, it was only $25 dollars for 3 courses, but I still found a tad objectionable to be spending this money on this food.
One issue is the overhype, another issue is the false advertisement. Do not describe something in the menu that's not going to be in the dish itself. Never do this: it strikes a wrong note, gives off a whiff of dishonesty, to mix metaphors here. They wanted the menu to read more than it is.
So, I probably would not return to this restaurant. If you write a menu like that, make sure you deliver. That's all.
Food: 1/10, for being at the very least edible.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Two reviewers: ts and js
First of all, I must say that the meat choices for the entrees don't seem to appear on their regular menu. Hence, I am a little in doubt of their "authenticity"; I don't think they were at all representative of "African" cuisine (even though there's a "Moroccan" stew and a "Kenyan" curry). I'm thinking that perhaps they decided to provide more "conventional" flavours for the Dine Out crowd.
But, what do I know?
I guess it just makes me want to try the restaurant in its non-Dine Out form.
The night we went was the 1st day of Dine Out and it seemed like they were still somehow scrambling around and didn't yet know quite how everything should flow, in terms of food & service.
Fresh, frittered vegetables deep-friedserved with mango chutney and hot sauce
-- or --
Black pepper Scallops
Scallops sauteed in a special Nyala sauce
-- or --
Boerewos kobab (South African style beef Kobab)
Spiced South African sausage sauteed, skewered and grilled with some vegetable friends - served with Mango Chutney and hot sauce
BLACK PEPPER SCALLOPS
This was served with a generic mesclun salad.
Not very pepper-y for my taste: when something is advertised as being black peppered, I expected it to be sweet and fiery from the aforementioned peppers.
Nothing spectacular for the scallops but at least they were cooked through. I've since found myself having an aversion to partial-cooked scallops.
I had the sausage. It was served with a pappadom and some sort of salad that had beets. I didn't mind the beets-and-something salad at all. The sausage itself was actually flavorful as well and not dry. I tried the mango chutney but I wasn't quite sure if that was homemade. It looked like it came out of a jar. In any case, I didn't think the sausage really needed it that much and hence, avoided it.
(Note, I like the write-up of "with some vegetable friends." Teehee, so cute.)
Lamb Tagine with couscous or rice
A Moroccan dish. lamb cooked in a clay pot (Tagine) with Dried apricots, okra and prunes over a slow heat.
-- or --
Chicken Curry with coconut milk
a Kenyan dish chicken prepared in coconut milk and curry served on a bed of scented rice
-- or --
Ingudi watt ( Split peas with mushrooms) and spinach stew
It is vegan friendly, no animal fat or dairy products are used.
It is served on a bed of Ethiopian flat bread (Injera) or rice
The lamb was tender, with a sweet, lamb-y, and not overly gamey flavour. I expected this dish to be more aggressively spiced though! Sweet, savoury, with a subtle heat -- but this was not very complex at all, with the sweetness from the dried fruit and the cinnamon overpowering the dish. Come to think of it, it was also slightly underseasoned. Again, aggressive spicing, please! This dish was too timid.
I had the curry chicken, of course... that is, not the vegetarian option! Teehee. It was a whole leg and thigh of chicken, so fairly "generous" in serving size. This was "OK". Nothing remarkable, but passable. I mean, I did eat it all, but it didn't make a strong impression.
Pecan brandy tart
-- or --
-- or --
Did not like this at all. I don't know what it is, but I'm finding myself averse to mango syrup in desserts. The cheesecake served was drizzled with a mango syrup, which I really do not like on cheesecake! (On the same vein, please stop this pairing mango with seafood! I find mango to overpower everything it comes in contact with, it of the overly sweet flesh, ripe and heady aroma.)
I actually ordered the baklava, but the pecan brandy tart came instead. Also, it was more a cake than a tart. It was "OK"; not really "good," but not bad. I tasted the cheesecake and I have the same comment.
All in all, the food was "OK". Nothing was objectionable, but nothing was spectacular as well. But, for the price of $15, this was really good value. It was akin to home-cooking, which is fine with me. I just wished there were stronger flavours present.
Food rating: hmmm, I'm thinking a 5-ish/10 or something like that for this meal. Basically just not very memorable.
Again, I would like to try their regular menu items.
I think the owner just didn't know what to expect for Dine Out. He mentioned that he had to rush to get extra tables and other such last-minute prep, so perhaps he just didn't really have enough time/energy to oversee the whole thing. This seemed the case from the get-go, so even though things may not have gone really smoothly, we knew not to be overly "sensitive" to any glitches.
In fact, the experience of actually being in the restaurant was fairly pleasant.
I would go back to Nyala to try to discover dishes that I will like.
We ate here the first night of Dine Out and the owner seemed very eager to please and was really trying hard to make this a good night for his customers.
I like the restaurant because it seems to serve honest food. I don't know about the mango chutney -- I didn't try it because I don't like mango chutney in general -- coming out of a jar. I mean, I can't really tell if it did come out of a jar -- if that would jive with this idea of "honest" food at all.
What I mean by "honest" food: the food is not pretentious at all and does not claim to be more than it is. The price point is very reasonable. At $15 for the Dine Out menu, I felt a little embarrassed to get 3 courses out of it. Our server even forgot to add the coffee and the tea we ordered to the bill, which we easily remedied by adding 6 bucks to the total bill to cover those.
Where the restaurant can improve is in the execution of the dishes. They should hire somebody in the kitchen with the requisite culinary chops to present these dishes the way it can be presented. Of course, once they have someone with a whole lot of skill, their prices should reflect it. I don't mind at all: in fact, I would welcome a restaurant like that, serving "African" cuisine with integrity, skill, and artistry.
So, even if I were not totally satisfied with my Dine Out night, I would go back again and support the restaurant.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Published: September 6, 2007
School Lunch Abroad: Another way to eat
by DEBORAH MADISON
The school lunch in France looks so good!
Published: July 10, 2005
To see this story with its related links on the The Observer site, go to http://www.observer.co.uk/.
If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn't everyone in Asia have a headache?
In the port city of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, there is a museum devoted entirely to noodle soup. It may be Japan's favourite foodie day out: one and a half million ramen fans visit the museum every year, and even on the wintry morning that I went the queue wound 50 yards down the street - young couples, mainly: cold, hungry and excited.
Inside the Yokohama Ramen Museum and Amusement Park they meet exhibitions on the evolution of soup bowls and instant noodle packets - more fascinating than you'd think, but these are not the main event. That's deep in the basement, where there's an entire street, done up to look like a raucous 1950s Yokohama harbour-front. Every shop houses a different noodle restaurant, each a clone of one of the best noodle shops of Japan. It's a culinary Madame Tussauds.
The Japanese are sentimental about their noodle soup - it's the working-class food that nourished the nation in the bleak days after World War Two. Ramen chefs are TV celebs, in a country that devotes more broadcast time to cookery than even we do. I asked the young pilgrims just what they valued above all in ramen. They sniffed the tangy air, Bisto-kid style: 'The basis of the experience is the broth,' was the consensus. In the great Japanese cod-Western Tampopo - the only movie to take noodle soup, sex and death with equal seriousness - a ramen guru announces that the key to Japan's national dish is that 'the soup must animate the noodles'.
What does chiefly animate Japanese soups and broths is an amino acid called glutamate. In the best ramen shops it's made naturally from boiling dried kombu seaweed; it can also come from dried shrimp or bonito flakes, or from fermented soy. More cheaply and easily, you get it from a tin, where it is stabilised with ordinary salt and is thus monosodium glutamate.
This last fact is of little interest to the Japanese - like most Asians, they have no fear of MSG. And there lies one of the world's great food scare conundrums. If MSG is bad for you - as Jeffrey Steingarten, the great American Vogue food writer once put it - why doesn't everyone in China have a headache?
To begin to answer this we must go back to Japan a century ago. Professor Kidunae Ikeda comes home from the physics faculty at the Tokyo Imperial University and sits down to eat a broth of vegetables and tofu prepared by his wife. It is - as usual - delicious. The professor, a mild, bespectacled biochemistry specialist, turns to Mrs Ikeda and asks - as spouses occasionally will - what is the secret of her wonderful soup. Mrs Ikeda points to the strips of dried seaweed she keeps in the store cupboard. This is kombu, a heavy kelp. Soak it in hot water and you get the essence of dashi, the stock base of the tangy broths and consommés the Japanese love.
This is the professor's 'Eureka!' moment. Mrs Ikeda's kombu is to lead him to a discovery that will make his fortune and change the nature of 20th-century food. In time, it would bring about the world's longest-lasting food scare, and as a result, kick-start the age of the rebel consumer. It was an important piece of seaweed.
Professor Ikeda was one of many scientists at the turn of the century working on the biochemical mechanics which inform our perception of the world. By 1901 they had drawn a map of the tongue, showing, crudely, the whereabouts of the different nerve endings that identify the four accepted primary tastes, sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
But Ikeda thought this matrix missed something. 'There is,' he said, 'a taste which is common to asparagus, tomatoes, cheese and meat but which is not one of the four well-known tastes.' He decided to call the fifth taste 'umami' - a common Japanese word that is usually translated as 'savoury' - or, with more magic, as 'deliciousness'. By isolating umami, Ikeda - who had picked up some liberal notions while studying in Germany - hoped he might be able to improve the standard of living of Japan's rural poor. And so he and his researchers began their quest to isolate deliciousness.
By 1909 the work on kombu was complete. Ikeda made his great announcement in the august pages of the Journal of the Chemical Society of Tokyo. He had isolated, he wrote, a chemical with the molecular formula C5H9NO4. This and the substance's other properties were exactly the same as those of glutamic acid, an amino acid produced by the human body and present in many foodstuffs. When the protein containing glutamic acid is broken down - by cooking, fermentation or ripening - it becomes glutamate.
'This study,' concluded Professor Ikeda in triumph, 'has discovered two facts: one is that the broth of seaweed contains glutamate and the other that glutamate causes the taste sensation "umami".'
The next step was to stabilise the chemical. This was easy: mixing it with ordinary salt and water made monosodium glutamate - a white crystal soluble in water and easy to store. By the time he published his paper, the professor had, wisely, already patented MSG. He began to market it as a table condiment called Aji-no-moto ('essence of taste') that same year.
It was an instant success, and when Kidunae Ikeda died in 1936 he was a rich man: he remains, as every Japanese schoolchild knows, one of Japan's 10 greatest inventors. The food chemicals giant Ajinomoto Corp, now owned by General Foods, pumps out a third of the 1.5 million tons of monosodium glutamate we eat every year - from India to Indonesia 'Ajinomoto' means MSG.
Ikeda's original paper muses a little about MSG and why it should excite the taste buds so, without arriving at any convincing conclusion. Much more work has been done since. We now know that glutamate is present in almost every food stuff, and that the protein is so vital to our functioning that our own bodies produce 40 grams of it a day. Probably the most significant discovery in explaining human interest in umami is that human milk contains large amounts of glutamate (at about 10 times the levels present in cow's milk). Babies have very basic taste buds: it's believed that mother's milk offers two taste enhancements - sugar (as lactose) and umami (as glutamate) in the hope that one or other will get the little blighters drinking. Which means mothers' milk and a packet of cheese'n'onion crisps have rather more in common than you'd think.
When you next grate parmesan cheese onto some dull spaghetti, what you will have done in essence is add a shed-load of glutamate to stimulate your tongue's umami receptors, thus sending a message to the brain which signals (as one neuro-researcher puts it) 'Joy and happiness!' Supper is rescued - and your system has added some protein and fats to a meal that was all carbohydrate.
Ripe cheese is full of glutamate, as are tomatoes. Parmesan, with 1200mg per 100 grams, is the substance with more free glutamate in it than any other natural foodstuff on the planet. Almost all foods have some naturally occurring glutamate in them but the ones with most are obvious: ripe tomatoes, cured meats, dried mushrooms, soy sauce, Bovril and of course Worcester sauce, nam pla (with 950mg per 100g) and the other fermented fish sauces of Asia.
Your mate, Marmite, with 1750mg per 100g, has more glutamate in it than any other manufactured product on the planet - except a jar of Gourmet Powder straight from the Ajinomoto MSG factory. On the label, Marmite calls it 'yeast extract'. Nowhere in all their literature does the word 'glutamate' appear. I asked Unilever why they were so shy about their spread's key ingredient, and their PR told me that it was because it was 'naturally occurring ... the glutamate occurs naturally in the yeast'.
As they put monosodium glutamate into production, Professor Ikeda and his commercial partners found that making stable glutamate from the traditional seaweed and salt was unnecessary. They developed a much simpler and cheaper process using fermented molasses or wheat - eventually manufacturers realised that almost any protein can be broken down to produce it.
The product took off, immediately, and within a few years Ajinomoto (which was now the company's name) was selling MSG across Asia. The breakthrough to America came in the aftermath of World War Two. Like pizza and vermouth, MSG was a taste American soldiers brought home with them. They weren't aware that MSG was what they'd liked in Japan - but the US Army catering staff noticed that their men enjoyed the leftover ration packs of the demobilised Japanese Army much more than they did their own, and began to ask why.
MSG arrived in America at a key moment. Mass production of processed food was booming. But canning, freezing and pre-cooking have a grave technical problem in common - loss of flavour. And MSG was a cheap and simple additive that made everything taste better. It went into tinned soups, salad dressings, processed meats, carbohydrate-based snacks, ice cream, bread, canned tuna, chewing gum, baby food and soft drinks. As the industry progressed, it was used in frozen, chilled and dehydrated ready meals. MSG is crucial in no-fat or low-fat food, where natural flavour is lost with the extraction of oils. It's now found in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and dietary supplements.
Ajinomoto Corp started manufacturing in the States in 1956 and in 1962 allied itself with Kellogg's. MSG sells in the States in supermarkets, under the brand Ac'cent. In Britain you will have to visit a Chinese supermarket for a supply of pure Gourmet Powder, but MSG plays a role - often in secret - in products on almost every shelf of the supermarket.
But MSG's conquest of the planet hit a major bump in April 1968, when, in the New England Journal of Medicine, a Dr Ho Man Kwok wrote a chatty article, not specifically about MSG, whose knock-on effects were to panic the food industry. 'I have experienced a strange syndrome whenever I have eaten out in a Chinese restaurant, especially one that served northern Chinese food. The syndrome, which usually begins 15 to 20 minutes after I have eaten the first dish, lasts for about two hours, without hangover effect. The most prominent symptoms are numbness at the back of the neck, gradually radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness and palpitations...'
And so was born Chinese restaurant syndrome (CRS) and a medico-academic industry dedicated to the researching and publicising of the dangers of MSG - the foreign migrant contaminating American kitchens. Shortly after Dr Ho came Dr John Olney at Washington University, who in 1969 injected and force-fed newborn mice with huge doses of up to four grams/kg bodyweight of MSG. He reported that they suffered brain lesions and claimed that the MSG found in just one bowl of tinned soup would do the same to the brain of a two-year-old.
Other scientists were testing MSG and finding no evidence of harm - in one 1970 study 11 humans ate up to 147 grams of the stuff every day for six weeks without any adverse reactions. At the University of Western Sydney the researchers concluded, tersely: 'Chinese restaurant syndrome is an anecdote applied to a variety of postprandial illnesses; rigorous and realistic scientific evidence linking the syndrome to MSG could not be found.'
Science has still not found a convincing explanation for CRS: indeed, some researchers suggest it may well be to do with the other things diners have imbibed there - peanuts, shellfish, large amounts of lager. Others say that fear of MSG is a form of mass psychosis - you suffer the symptoms you've been told to worry about.
The fact is that, since the eighties, mainstream science has got bored of MSG. Some research continues; in 2002, for example, New Scientist got very excited over a report that MSG might damage your eyesight, after Japanese scientists announced that they had produced retinal thinning in baby rats fed with MSG. It turned out they were putting 20 grams of MSG in every 100g of rat food - an amazing amount, given that, in the UK, we adults consume about four grams of it each a week. (One project took people who were convinced their asthma was caused by MSG and fed them up to six grams of it a day, without ill-effects). However, at no time has any official body, governmental or academic, ever found it necessary to warn humans against consuming MSG.
But popular opinion has travelled - spectacularly - in the opposite direction to science. By the early eighties, fuelled by books like Russell Blaylock's Excitotoxins - The Taste That Kills, MSG's name was utter mud. Google MSG today, and you'll find it blamed for causing asthma attacks, migraines, hypertension and heart disease, dehydration, chest pains, depression, attention deficit disorder, anaphylactic shock, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and a host of diverse allergies.
Thus since 1968 the processed food industry has had its own nasty headache as a result of MSG. Hundreds of processed products would have to be withdrawn if amino-acid based flavour-enhancers could not be used. They would become, simply, tasteless. By the 1980s a third of all Americans believed it was actively harmful. Crisp-buying teenagers thought MSG made them stupid and spotty. Mothers read that MSG could put holes in their children's brains.
So the food industry employed its usual tactic in the face of consumer criticism: MSG was buried by giving it new names. The industry came up with a fabulous range of euphemisms for monosodium glutamate - the most cheeky of all is 'natural flavourings' (however, the industry did remove MSG from high-end baby foods).
Nowadays the industry's PR beats a big drum. 'Natural, Tasty, Safe' is the slogan. 'Many people believe that monosodium glutamate is made from chemicals. Monosodium glutamate is a chemical in the same way that the water we drink and the oxygen we breathe are chemicals,' explains an MSG website.
MSG manufacturers are now pushing it as actively useful for health - a way to eat less salt - and they have pursued the celebrity route too. Heston Blumenthal, of the Fat Duck in Bray, is among the eminent chefs the industry has enlisted for promotion of the umami principle at conferences across the world - although he uses traditional sources like kombu.
It's not surprising that the MSG-makers are so busy on their product's image, because MSG-phobia still shows no signs of subsiding. This despite the fact that every concerned public body that ever investigated it has given it a clean bill of health, including the EU, the United Nations food agencies (which in 1988 put MSG on the list of 'safest food additives'), and the British, Japanese and Australian governments.
In fact, every government across the world that has a food licensing and testing system gives MSG - 'at normal levels in the diet' - the thumbs-up. The US Food and Drug Administration has three times, in 1958, 1991 and 1998, reviewed the evidence, tested the chemical and pronounced it 'genuinely recognised as safe.
However, there remains a body of respected nutritionists who are sure MSG causes problems - especially in children. And parents listen. Most doctors who offer guides to parents qualify their warnings about MSG - it may cause problems, it has been anecdotally linked with disorders. But public figures like the best-selling nutrition guru Patrick Holford are powerful advocates against MSG. He's sure the science shows that MSG causes migraines and he is convinced of the dangers of the substance to children, particularly in the child-grabber snacks like Monster Munch and Cheesy Wotsits.
'I'm a practitioner and there's no doubt that kids with behavioural problems react to MSG,' he says. 'I've given them the foods, and seen the different reactions. Glutamate is a brain stimulant in the way that it is given, because it enhances sensory perception in the sense that things taste much better - and some kids become very hyperactive.'
Holford admits that he has not measured this hyperactivity, or tested MSG by itself on children - his statements are based on anecdotal comparison of the effects of plain crisps versus flavoured ones. But there is some justice in his complaint that in all the acres of research on MSG, 'most is directed at the possible physiological effects, not the behavioural ones'.
Eric Taylor, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College in London, is among the leading British experts on food additives and children's behaviour. He was a pioneer of 'elimination tests' that examined food additives and their effect on children - establishing, for one, that the colouring tartrazine did contribute to hyperactivity.
Yet he does not think MSG is a culprit and he has never tested it. Why? 'There are so many substances, and there's not much funding. And, with MSG, there's no reasonable physiological theorem to justify the research.' The only investigation he has seen on children's brains and MSG, conducted in the seventies, suggested that the substance might improve reading ability.
Patrick Holford, like many of MSG's foes, also talks of its possible addictive properties and he cannot explain why 'natural' glutamate, say in cheese or parma ham, should be any less addictive, or harmful, than glutamate that's been industrially produced and stabilised with salt.
The anti-additive movement (check out the excellent and informative www.truthinlabeling.org) admits that 'natural' and 'industrially produced' glutamate are chemically the same, and treated by the body similarly. So why doesn't anyone ever complain of a headache or hyperactivity after a four cheese and tomato pizza (where there's easily as much glutamate as in an MSG-enhanced chicken chow mein)?
Their answer is that the industrial fermentation process introduces contaminants. This is possible, of course, but it ignores the fact that whole swaths of the planet - including East Asia, where I live - do not have any problem with MSG. Here in Thailand, the phong chu rot sits on the table with the fish sauce and the chilli powder where you would have the salt and pepper.
MSG has had one unarguable effect on us - and it is a benign one. It has made consumers look at the small print. In turn this kick-started the organic food movement and other, more militant consumer power groups. 1968 was a good year for rebels, and the dawn of MSG-phobia coincides with the beginning of a great shift in middle-class consumers' thinking - a withdrawal of our faith in the vast corporations that fed and medicated us. After 1968 we began to question them and their motives. Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace came next.
It is now 37 years since Dr Ho Man Kwok named Chinese restaurant syndrome, and it's plain that the case against MSG remains unproven. So either you conclude, as some will, that government, science and the mega-corporates of the food industry really are all in league with each other to poison us for profit. Or, like me, you make a different decision.
Now, I have little faith in the food industry and I'm as suspicious of food additives as the next person - I spend many hours fighting the grim battle to keep them from my children's mouths. But until new evidence emerges I am going to give MSG a conditional discharge. But would I have it in the kitchen? Well, I did. I bought a little bag of Ajinomoto from the corner shop on our Bangkok street and tried it, a gram (the tip of a teaspoon) at a time.
By itself it tasted of almost nothing. So I beat up and fried two eggs, and tried one with MSG, one without. The MSG one had more egg flavour, and didn't need any salting. I tried the crystals on my son's leftover pieces of chicken breast (definitely more chickeny). I tried it in a peanut butter sandwich (nothing). On Weetabix with milk (interesting, sort of malty) and on Weetabix with milk and sugar (thought I was going to be sick).
My friend Nic came round. He told me about a Japanese restaurant he'd been to that gave him headaches and a 'weird tingling in the cheeks' - until he told them to stop with the MSG. Then he was fine, he said. I nodded and I served him two tomato and chive salads; both were made using the very same ingredients but I told him one plate of tomatoes was 'organic', the other 'factory-farmed'. The organic tomatoes were far better, we agreed. These, of course, were the tomatoes doused with mono sodium glutamate.
Then we ate mascarpone, parma ham and tomato pizza. Nic felt fine. So did I. I had ingested, I reckoned, a good six grams of MSG over the day, and probably the same again in free glutamate from the food - the equivalent of eating two 250g jars of Marmite.
I've thrown the Ajinomoto out now. It works, but it was embarrassing - a bit like having a packet of Bisto in the cupboard. There is no need to have MSG in the kitchen. If I want extra glutamate in my food I'll use parmesan, or tomato purée, or soy sauce. Or like Mrs Ikeda, boil up some kelp.
So you think you don't eat MSG? Think again...
Some of the names MSG goes under
monopotassium glutamate glutavene glutacyl glutamic acid autolyzed yeast extract calcium caseinate sodium caseinate E621 (E620-625 are all glutamates) Ajinomoto, Ac'cent Gourmet Powder
The following may also contain MSG
natural flavours or seasonings natural beef or chicken flavouring hydrolyzed milk or plant protein textured protein seasonings soy sauce bouillon broth spices
Free glutamate content of foods (mg per 100g)
roquefort cheese 1280 parmesan
cheese 1200 soy sauce 1090 walnuts 658 fresh tomato juice 260 grape juice 258 peas 200 mushrooms 180 broccoli 176 tomatoes 140 mushrooms 140 oysters 137 corn 130 potatoes 102 chicken 44 mackerel 36 beef 33 eggs 23 human milk 22
For more on the MSG debate visit: www.truthinlabeling.org, www.msgmyth.com, www.msgtruth.org or www.food.gov.uk.
Copyright Guardian News and Media Limited
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Two reviewers: ts and csc; [no review by js]
The table was really small/narrow. Why am I mentioning this? Perhaps it will become clear later.
The server made a point of explaining that they had a "tapas" concept (again, very overdone and inaccurate, this "tapas" label); that is, that we were supposed to share the dishes among ourselves. OK, that's good and fine.
We chose 3 "smaller" plates and 3 "larger" plates.
Oh, the menu is on their website.
Crispy chick pea-coated onion fritters, cumin & coriander, tamarind & mint yogurt
This came first. We were really happy with this. Normally, I don't like the "usual" batter that onion rings come in. But this (different/chickpea batter) was very nice. The dip was really good. The blend of flavors was just right. (Maybe a minor complaint, there was a touch to much salt in some parts of each ring.)
We were finished with this dish completely, but the second dish took a while to arrive.
Malaysian fry bread, Malaysian yellow curry
I don't actually know what the "bread" part of this is supposed to be like, so whatever came out was perfectly fine with me. The curry sauce to dip into was TOO sweet, though! Yeah, we ended up not really using that. I just dipped this bread in the chutney/yogurt dip from the onion rings.
Again, we finished this and had to wait a while before the next arrived.
Crispy Thai Squid
Crispy panko-crusted squid, fresh lime, sambal badjak, cilantro
The panko didn't work for me. Each squid piece seemed too bulky as a result. I guess the dip in this case was made w/ the sambal badjak? Or, they made this sambal badjak to act as a dip. In any case, it was TOO salty! It would've been nice, too, since I like the combo of lime-fish-sauce-chilis, etc. But yeah, this was "OK", I guess, but not as successful as the onion rings, or even the roti.
Once again, I used the chutney from the onion rings as my dip for this one. That was the only one that had a nice balance of flavors.
Vietnamese 'Nuoc Cham' Sablefish
Pan-seared smoked BC sablefish, green papaya salad, mushrooom & ginger-wontons
I'm not too fond of smoked sablefish. I'm not sure if the nuoc cham can compete with its inherent smoked flavor, in this case. (That is, I couldn't really taste the nuoc cham; I just tasted smoked sablefish.) CSC liked the mushroom-ginger wontons. They were fried. I actually didn't remember what the filling was. I liked the green papaya salad, but it was a tiny bit salty.
Again, we were COMPLETELY finished with this dish and had to wait a while before the next dish came.
Pulled Duck Confit Crepes
Duck confit, Philipine lime, charred scallion, jicama & cucumber salad, Vietnamese coriander, mint, basil, sesame oil pancakes
The "pancake" was basically similar to those wrappers for Peking duck. The duck confit did taste of Philippine lime (calamansi), but the whole mixture was SOOO sweet. Therefore, one couldn't put too much filling when assembling each bundle lest the sweetness of the filling overpower everything else.
I don't recall the jicama & cucumber salad being dressed any which way, they were just their cool, refreshing selves. The herbs were cilantro, mint, basil and 2 Vietnamese herbs, which I think were RAO RAM and RAO OM. (Basically the guy who brought it over mentioned 2 "rao" herbs, so I think those are it.)
(Oh, the rao ram and rao om: I don't know how to describe their flavor! Different. I can definitely say that I've NEVER tasted them before!)
For the amount of the duck confit filling (and how SWEET it was), there was TOO little of the jicama-cucumber salad, too little of the herbs and DEFINITELY too few "pancakes"! I think there were only 4, maybe 6. CSC was incredulous: "How is it even possible that you can use up that amount of filling using only those 4 (or 6) pancakes?!"
So we couldn't finish the duck confit filling and had it wrapped to go (thinking we can have it with rice or something). We just wanted the filling to-go, but the girl upsold us by repeating twice that we probably wanted an extra order of crepes to-go! (We mentioned "No" the first time, I believe.)
Again, we had this packed up and waited quite a while for the next dish to arrive! We even forgot that we had something else because it was taking a while.
Which brings me to the whole "tapas" thing: if it were tapas, shouldn't we have at least 2 dishes out at the same time so we can share them among ourselves? I don't get the dishes coming out one-by-one like that, and slowly too. One reason I thought of was it was perhaps because the table was SOOO small! I guess only 1 plate can fit in comfortably. But still! Weird.
Grilled Korean Kalbi Ribs
48-hour marinated beef short ribs, Korean gochujang chili, cucumber, and sui-choy kimchee
The cucumber kimchee and sui-choy kimchee were "OK"; not as good as "real" kimchee, I guess. (Or at least, kimchee I've eaten in Korean restaurants, or even Chinese restaurants, haha.) I guess they weren't as flavorful and were the tiniest bit bland.
The kalbi was quite disappointing. It was really, really tender (which was very good), but it was TOO salty! Yeah, that can't really be remedied.
So yeah, all in all, they seemed to have a hard time finding a balance of flavors in their dishes. It was too sweet or too salty. I don't know if it was because they had their "B Team" in the kitchen (seeing as it was a Sunday night, presumably not a busy night). I wonder if the food will be better on a Friday or Saturday night?
Overall, this restaurant to me was a disappointment, even with my already “lowered” expectations, (ie, ts said that their “Homba” may NOT be exactly like the ones that I’m used to from our house or other restaurants, etc).
I wanted to like this. I may even go back again to try the other dishes: the "Adobo" Chicken Wings -- just because adobo is such a staple dish that I'm interested to see what they're going to do with it -- or the "Humba" Braised Pork Belly, again to see how they take the familiar and make it their own.
Otherwise, I think I can get good Indian food or Chinese food or Thai food or Japanese food at their respective restaurants.
The only thing that I thought was good was the onion rings and the truth is, I really don’t go for onion rings, but the dip here was pretty tasty so that was good.
The rest was just one disappointment after another. Either too sweet or too salty or just not right. Usually, the first bite is ok, but then you get the saltiness or the too sweet flavors lingering… just didn’t like the dishes.
So I don’t think I’ll even go back to try the other ones.
(Of course again, I am pregnant, so this might be my “Aurora” this time round, but I think ts and js agree with me this time).
I wanted to like this, but there were too many inconsistencies in the food.
I guess a rating of 6-ish/10 in that I like these Asian flavors, but really, more like a 5/10 because of the seasoning mistakes.
(This and Marrakech are about the same.)
Just me, ts; [no review by js]
I actually made reservations to this restaurant in November. When we arrived, the place seemed to be closed. They had the sign there and everything, but no lights and a locked door. We also saw Cobre across the street and looked, but they also seemed closed. So I thought that perhaps they were closed because of Remembrance Day, but failed to indicate on their computerized reservation system.
Fast forward to January 4. We discovered that they also had an entrance on the NEXT street. Now I doubt myself. Could they have been opened that other time?! But why would they have a restaurant sign at the back if people can't go in through the back door? A mystery. I just hope I wasn't the idiot the last time. ;D
Anyway, their menu is here: http://www.diningoutguide.com/Menus/LeMarrakech_Dinner.pdf
I'll just note down the actual items we ordered.
First of all, I take SERIOUS OBJECTION to the seating!
Basically, the concept is that they have lower tables and, of course, lower chairs. But, our table was against the wall and there was a banquette OF NORMAL HEIGHT against the wall. Meaning, when I sat there, the table only came up to me knees!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OMG -- SOOOOO UNCOMFORTABLE!!!! Imagine eating like that!
Anyway, other notes re ambience: yeah, not bad. There was a belly dancer a little later during the dinner. But, as you know, it's all about the food.
Les Salades De Fez
Zaalouk, oven roasted eggplant+ 3 others (the menu above is not the latest version, I don't think)
I must say, the menu above is not very accurate at all. Maybe except for the eggplant one?
There were 4 little dishes of salad. I think the pricing is a little off on this.
I liked the eggplant dish. Basically it was mashed up. I don't know what the flavours are exactly (you know, being all "exotic" and all), but it was nice. I ate that one, mostly.
Carrot salad: It was OK, didn't particularly care for it.
Celeriac: It was OK, didn't particularly care for it.
The both of them were very underseasoned.
Then there was some sort of radish with some sort of FLOWER flavor. YUCK!
That ROSE TEA incident just came flooding back. I couldn't force myself to eat any of it after the first bite. I don't know if it was rose or something else. My sister said that perhaps it was hibiscus or something, but I don't know. Basically it was VERY flowery. Again, it was like eating potpourri!
Marinated then dry aged oxtail, braised with Moroccan spices and dried fruits. Servedon saffron brique pastry
This was pretty good. I mean, it tasted beefy and had nice flavors, etc. I was just disappointed at the "pastry". Basically instead of a bastilla where the filling is inside phyllo, they just had the "pastry" (which was basically a very thin sheet of something similar to phyllo) alternately layered with the filling to make a tower. It was a little hard to eat. That is, just cutting through won't get you a taste of both filling and pastry as they just come apart. So, it was "pretty good," but nothing special.
Bread & Cured Butter
The bread tasted familiar, but it was just bread. Average. It was warmed, though, always a plus. The cured butter was just salty.
Tagine Djaj M’Hammer
Oven roated Cornish hen, house preserved lemons and olives
Not bad/pretty good. I'll leave js to describe it more.
Le Magret De Marrakech
Pan seared duck breast, apricots and pistachios, carrots harrissa sauce
This was pretty good as well. l liked this better than the chicken (or cornish hen, pardon me), but that's just personal preference. The duck had some spices crusted on it. I think there was also some other sauce aside from the carrot harrissa sauce... something FLOWER-y! I avoided it.
We were given some condiments: toasted cumin seeds and salt, and harrissa. The harrissa was good and spicy! It was actually good on the bread.
All in all, it was a decent meal, but more or less average. If we were to return, it would be a while.
Rating = 5-6ish/10
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Disclaimer: Really crazy-horrible pictures. Please bear with us. =)
grilled flank with green leaf lettuce and cilantro, mint, Thai basil
So good! But we forgot to put the toasted rice! It wasn't added until about 5 salad tosses later.
(Whoa, the picture is so red!)
CHINESE BBQ TURKEY (from Hon's)
This tasted like "Savory Chicken" from the Philippines. =) I still would've liked CHICKEN better, though. Teehee.
We served it with CRANBERRY SAUCE (homemade, of course).
GRILLED LEG OF LAMB (rosemary, lemon, garlic)
served w/ TZATZIKI
My tzatziki was so good. Quite a zing with the garlic! (Used it as a dip when the lamb was all gone.)
SOY-PINEAPLE-GUAVA PORK TENDERLOIN
It looks so dry here, but it wasn't. Glaze not pictured.
ENGLISH "ROAST" POTATOES
CREAMED SPINACH & GREEN ONIONS
MAMA'S PHILIPPINE-STYLE FRUIT SALAD (not pictured)
JASMINE GREEN TEA RICE PUDDING
CROQUEMBOUCHE w/ gelato-filled profiteroles
Still have a lot more caramel sauce to go!
Drizzling the caramel. Didn't get to take a picture once it was all encased in the caramel.