22 June 2010

Dulce de Leche Eclairs

Éclair Confiture de Lait
Dulce de Leche Eclairs (with title)
A few days ago I was at the cooking section of Kinokuniya bookstore. I was one of the non-Japanese minorities there, and if you've shopped there before you'd know that finding non-Japanese, non-Asian, non-white shoppers are even rarer. But there was one that day roaming, and I wondered what he was looking for. He finally settled in the cooking section and asked another shopper (Japanese female) for assistance. He was holding up the Japanese version of the lovely book Everyday Harumi and was asking her if it was a good choice to get to learn Japanese cooking, etc., even though the text was completely in Japanese (I wanted to butt in and say that it has an English version published by Conran Octopus).

28 May 2010

Chocolate Revel Bars

Revel Bars (with title)
"You put too much meaning into things," a friend of mine once told me good-naturedly (and with a touch of concern). I didn't disagree. It was my thing, even though I tried so blessed hard for it not to be a thing with me. For better or for worse, it's how my brain is wired. And to be honest, it's a really difficult way to go through life, especially when your friends do a lot of things that don't really have any motivation or agenda. It always has to be about something with me.

22 May 2010

Empire State of Mind (New York Part 4)

Swing Band at Union Station
Click on any image to take you to the Flickr page to see it bigger. Also, you might want to check out my tutorial on Curves for Photoshop. My most favorite tool ever.
I must confess, I don't really like Alicia Keys. I think "No One" from As I Am is her only song that has artistic merit and originality BUT that doesn't mean I don't kind of like one or two songs from each album for pop value. Empire State of Mind doesn't pick up until the bridge but there's a certain sense of hopefulness amidst the crazy/glamorous life of a New Yorker in the lyrics that I like. The sacrifices you have to make for the American Dream and all that. Above is a snap from what I believe is Union Station (14th Street) of a swing band complete with dancing couple. The couple was fun to watch but all of a sudden the saxophonist started losing it and I just had to take a pic!
MacDougal Street and Hummus Place
For obvious reasons while I was in New York, I was obsessing about cheap eats and I'd heard about Hummus Place and since I'd never eaten hummus before (GASP!), I thought it would be a good place to start.

17 May 2010

French Vanilla Flan

Flan à la Vanille
Vanilla Flan (with title)
Though my trip to Las Vegas was a few years ago, a lot of what I saw there became emblazoned in my memory (and noooo, it wasn't strippers or anything like that). For some reason when I went to Paris back in 2004 (way before I learned to really love food, much less cook), I didn't go to any Patisseries. Seeing one after another in Las Vegas whet my appetite for even more Patisserie, but again I skipped something that I really wanted to try - the flans.
Pastry Display at Lenotre 3
On the top shelf, you'll see the Flan Peche, with that irresistible deep brown burnished film on top of the custard.
I didn't really obsess about them because they weren't a standard in most of my cookbooks, which were in English, and I didn't want to make other pastry that resembled it, because I wanted to know what the real deal was like first. Right now I realize I must sound crazy. Who goes ga-ga over custard?! It's the golden film on top, I tell you...

10 May 2010

Ad Hoc's Banana Bread Pudding

Ad Hoc's Banana Bread Pudding (with title)
Just quickly: if you want to learn the basics of adjustment layers (which is how I created the selective coloring effect in the image below), just head on over to Special Effects for my lesson on adjustment layers. It's applicable in both Photoshop and Elements.
Well, so much for rushing to post as many pending recipes I have in my cache before I start my first day as a resident. For a brief period after a brief holiday, my internet pretty much exploded (again). But I'm glad to be back and can't wait to read what everyone's been up to (asking that question on Twitter doesn't seem to generate any response!). Today I'm going to be talking about a major turning point in the entire 3-year history of my learning how to bake: the day I decided to buy a digital scale.

I've always thought it was silly that anyone would suggest that some people are not open to using scales because it involves "math". Granted I've never been afraid of maths (in fact I aced it), but dealing with the fractions of cups and spoons involves more math, especially if you have to scale a recipe up or down. The only part that would be prohibitive would be the price, but these are going down all the time even for good models and the time it saves and the joy of reproducing a recipe faithfully is more than worth it.

26 April 2010

Tartine's Almond-Lemon Tea Cake

Almond-Lemon Tea Cake (with title)
I've written a new Photoshop/Elements tutorial: using Levels to make highlights brighter, shadows darker, play with the contrast, and remove color casts.
I don't have foodnetworkhumor.com on my feed reader, but during an idle moment when I might need a food-related chuckle, I head on over and get my fill. It's not super-interesting to me because we get a much-condensed version of The Food Network here: no Sandra Lee, no Anne Burrell, no Guy Fieri. Anyway, one of the running gags they have there is, of course, Ina Garten and her insistence on only using "good vanilla," which, to be fair to Garten, is pretty valid (even though I still use the not-good kind for some applications).

18 April 2010

Autumn in New York (New York Part 3)

Central Park
Before anything else, if you're learning or want to brush up on Photoshop or Elements, I've put up my next "lesson" on Histograms, an important foundation to adjusting brightness and contrast.
When I went to New York last November, I only had a few days before I had to go to San Francisco (but very happily, I might add), so I soaked up every little bit of it I could. Thankfully, when I returned for the second wave of interviews last January, I was able to see a little bit more and now that I've clinched a residency position there, going over my pics makes me super-excited about returning! Above is, of course, Central Park. Nothing like an Asian man in a business suit snapping away at ducks in the early afternoon that screams, "TOURIST!!!"

10 April 2010

Bean Curd Cheesecake

Tofu Cheesecake (with title)

My friends and I have talked about the two kinds of people to whom you share secrets: ones you tell because you know they'll keep them, and others you tell because you know they'll tell everyone and their hairstylists. I fall firmly on the first category. However, I've come to the realization that not a lot of people tell me secrets in the first place. It must be because I'm generally not a good repository of facts about people, and often I take away from the juiciness of the moment by being a total, er, guy about it. You can tell me something and I can completely forget about it until the next time you bring it up (or on command). I just don't like a cloud of judgment hanging over people and coloring my perceptions of them. I want my interactions to be spontaneous and genuine.

01 April 2010

Big Sur Bakery's Doughnuts

Big Sur Bakery Doughnuts (with title)
When I was in college, I recall that a friend had told me once that I was just like Ally McBeal (apparently this was before the show went into the dumpster): I liked being sad. I also recall being a little offended by it and I would have been more indignant had I not been so shocked. No one wants to be sad, though you'd think so, given the way I behaved as a silly little teen (er, I was 16 when I entered college), which in my defense isn't so different from how most other silly little teens behave when they're all angsty and emotion-y. I mean, it's no accident that I've loved the song Rainy Days and Mondays since I first heard it. (Someday when I'm a little more confident in my voice, we may see a video of me performing it on the piano..)

22 March 2010

Butter and Sage Gnocchi

Gnocchi Burro e Salvia
Brown Butter and Sage Gnocchi (with title)
Normally I really wouldn't, but several people would have strangled me if I didn't announce over both Twitter and Facebook that I had finally succeeded in getting an Internal Medicine residency position in the United States. Thanks to all those who expressed their congratulations. My ecstasy is tempered by the sense of responsibility and the determination to be the best physician that I can be. Part of this is determining what's going to happen to No Special Effects for at least the first year of my residency. But first, let me establish a few things:

14 March 2010

Perfect Strangers (Chicago Part 2)

Chicago theatre
As usual, if you want to look at the pictures and menus in finer detail, click on them to take you to the Flickr page, where the "All Sizes" button will show you larger versions.
Annoyingly, when I tried to book a hotel in Chicago for this year's interviews, this time in late November instead of late January, hotel rates were evened out at about $350 a night - about a 200% increase over last year's rates. Thank goodness for Kayak which suggested an extended-stay apartment for much less. However, I still only stayed for 3 nights, and because of wild goose chases (I'm looking at you, Red Hen Bakery, now an abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere) and some repetition of visited spots, it still felt like I saw much less. Oh well.

But, I still felt like I hit a jackpot here. I've been at a toss-up of best cheapest lunch between San Francisco's Shalimar and...

08 March 2010

River Cafe's Chocolate Almond Cake

Torta Caprese
Chocolate, Almond Cake
When I was in first-year high school, we had an English assignment that had us writing an essay about who we consider our hero and why. I wrote a fairly insipid essay (I don't know if you've heard, but I am a crap writer) about a noble, intelligent guy (identity doesn't matter). I received a dismal score for it, and it was so predictable and forgettable I don't even remember any of the details. Our English teacher was a real motivator, so he had the writers of the highest-scoring essays read them aloud in front of class. My Math seatmate and Science lab partner was one of them, so he was called in front.

02 March 2010

Proper Blokes' Sausage Fusilli

Proper Blokes' Sausage Fusilli (with title)
The deadline for the H2Ope for Haiti Raffle has been extended to March 7! Visit the link above to enter!!
Last Friday found me eating lunch with old college friends of mine: Allyson, Lorie, and Belle. Allyson was one of my team-mates in Microbiology class and we had a laugh about how much time I (as self-appointed leader) would sulk as he and my friend Bulit would squirt bottles of alcohol at each other and poor Vice. My excessive sense of responsibility could have easily irked Allyson (not that he had a right!!) but we always got along fine regardless. Watching The Hangover a few days later got me thinking about the friendships I form with other guys.

It seems like a bit of an eyeroll-inducer. Men by nature do not analyze friendships with other men. Unfortunately I'm wired a little differently and I do think about things other people won't, and having recently read that "men are idiots" (although not phrased so politely ;) made me think about how we're so underrated. Right Caitlin, Y, Pea? (Feel free to chime in if you, either by choice or coercion, hang around a bunch of other guys.)

20 February 2010

Sweet November (San Francisco Part 6)

Now it just seems like my posts about San Francisco will just never end, doesn't it? To be honest I hope they don't, but of course I have a finite number of pictures from when I went last November to January. Basically what I'm doing is giving you a ton of reasons why you should go too - at least once (more) in your life. By the way, Sweet November was kind of a funny casting decision. Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron together again! To rekindle their scorching chemistry from... The Devil's Advocate. Yikes! Anyway. Above is a picture of my cousin Kyle being taught by Mr. (Sensei?) Valero at Hapkido class. I'll tell you more of my babysitting adventures another time.

15 February 2010

Miette's Tomboy

Miette's Tomboy
I thought that I would be able to completely evade writing about love and all its silliness at around this time (you know... Chinese New Year). I've become extremely skilled at handling things all by myself that many of my friends would probably believe I'm the kind of person for which celibacy was made. It stings a little, but my friends from medical school are very used to me being professional that any evidence of sentimentality surprises them (something for another time), while my close friends are so used to me deflecting gooiness and mushiness with sarcasm.

But then in the past year, I've been to so many airports and I'd be totally embarrassed if you saw me at the gate, watching other people. Like when this sweet-looking, portly middle-aged man was bidding good-bye to his wife (an overseas worker) at the gate. He had a sad smile and couldn't let go of his wife's hand as he wiped away tears with a handkerchief. Or coming back to Manila last Wednesday, when a kid, who couldn't have been older than eight, was wailing as he hugged his returning father (also an overseas worker) with a mix of emotions so powerful and indescribable. Happiness/sadness/pure love. If you didn't know kids you wouldn't think they'd be capable of such a complex explosion of emotion, but they are. And it was too much for the dad too, who cried.

07 February 2010

Tartine's Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake

Tartine's Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake (with title)
Edited to add: Before things get out of hand, I need to add: I do not have an offer yet. I am just optimistic.

I can't believe I have less than 48 hours left in the United States! As a parting gift, Mother Nature sent me a respectable amount of snowfall a few nights ago. For some reason, the way the sidewalks are shoveled, it forms a neat shelf of snow that remind me of chocolate sheet cake with marshmallow frosting. True story.

It won't be long before I'm back in the Philippines, staring dejectedly once again at the weighing scale. It can't be as bad as my last stay here... Can it? The cold wasn't as bad as the last time, but my resolve not to overdo going out and spending (sometimes to get all-new ingredients for something, as it's not my kitchen I'm cooking in) has fueled my sloth, which is probably not so bad considering WHEN (hehe... THE SECRET! lol) I get that residency this coming July, I will not have a moment to catch my breath. Which, if you knew me from before this blog, is my "zone", though I do a better job than most at keeping "zen".

28 January 2010

Rose's Chocolate Feather Bed

Chocolate Feather Bed (with title)
Just a reminder: you can still join our Momofuku book giveaway. Before February 7 (12NN GMT), just insert a short paragraph in your next post about the most important food book of your life and link to our post on the Gastronomer's Bookshelf here, Then leave a comment on that post. Non-bloggers can also join by using the contact form on the site (visit the link above for details). Open to all!

While Garrett has been busy decorating his new apartment, he brought up an old post from his archives about dining alone. I am a strong dining-alone proponent, so I had to leave a comment on that post.

24 January 2010

Momofuku's Roasted Rice Cakes

Momofuku Roasted Rice Cakes (with title)
We now interrupt my usual story or philosophical rant for a (and here we substitute my Oprah-yelling voice) GIVEAWAAAAAAAAY! Duncan and I are giving away a copy of acclaimed book... MOMOFUKUUUUUUU! by David CHa-AAAAAANG!

Before the rest of my chatter: head on over to The Gastronomer's Bookshelf to find out how to participate. Also, check out my newest review, for Momofuku! (You can also check out our archive page to read all our reviews so far.)

16 January 2010

30 Days and 30 Nights (San Francisco Part 5)

Maiden Lane, San Francisco
Hi everyone, I know I made an appeal to your generosity not long ago for my own country, but if you have something to give for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, please visit this page to find immediate ways to help, and visit these blogs who are helping too. Thanks so much.
I know, I know. I skip out for a week and a half and come back with a travel post!!! I just spent so much time filtering through hundreds of pictures from San Francisco and editing a fraction of that and still managed to end up with material for maybe three posts, so I thought I'd get a head start on writing about that before I forget. But how can I forget about San Francisco? It's not just about the sun and the culture, but also one of the places I consider home. I called this post 30 days and 30 nights because that's exactly how much time I spent in the United States when I landed last August. Part of the time was spent in Greenville, North Carolina. Above is a picture taken on Maiden Lane (and how), where all the high-end boutiques are.

06 January 2010

Spice Cake Stuffed with Almond Paste

Gevulde Speculaas
Speculaas (with title)
Chinese settlers have been in the Philippines since before the Spanish colonization, and as a result we've inherited a bit of the cuisine and ingredients (yum) and traditions (and for a certain percentage of the population, genes). Much of the latter has to do with superstition, of which I'm not a fan. Sometimes it's harmless things like having to eat noodles on your birthday, to less harmful things like following feng shui principles for your home to harmful things like firecrackers. However, new year's eve is when we witness nearly all of them in one night. It's apparently crept over to Filipino communities here in the States. I'm not even sure if all of these are based on Chinese superstition, but we would've done them proud in our ingenuity if it turns out they aren't.