I make: Thai Beef Salad

In an attempt to eat “healthy” and cut out carbs at night, we made our version of thai beef salad over the weekend. I say attempt because this recipe does have a good amount of sodium, so we are going to try to balance this out by monitoring our sodium intake throughout the day.

(yields about ~8 servings)
Ingredients:
4 green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh basil
2 lemon grass, cut into half inch pieces
6 thai green chilis, seeded and minced
2 limes, juiced
3/4 cup fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon sweet chili sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon garlic chili sauce
1/2 cup of white sugar
2 pounds (1 inch thick) beef (I used top sirloin)
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
1 head Boston Bibb/butter lettuce, cut into 1 inch pieces (or torn)
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1 pink cherry/grape tomatoes, halved

(mint and cilantro can also be incorporated; I just don’t like either :))

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, stir together green onions, basil, lemon grass, thai chilis, lime juice, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce, garlic chili sauce and sugar. Adjust flavor, if necessary. Set aside.
2. Trim off excess fat around the beef, leaving about an 1/8 inch. Put beef into a ziplock bag and pour in about 1/2 of the fish sauce mixture (or just enough to coat the beef). Marinade for an hour in the refrigerator.
3. Remove from refrigerator and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Brush beef with canola oil before placing on broiling rack and broil for approximately 4-5 minutes on each side, or until medium/medium-well. Let beef cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into thin strips ACROSS THE GRAIN.
4. Combine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and beef strips. Add as much of the reserved fish sauce mixture as you’d like (a little really does go a long way). Toss and serve.

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This recipe also works on the grill, but I actually prefer the broiler in terms of taste and it is also less time-consuming than the grill.

Bon appetit!

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Changing Priorities

I’ve canceled my subscriptions for Us Weekly and InStyle in favor of Cooking Light. Yes, you read correctly: Cooking Light. My last few purchases have been an All-Clad 12 inch fry pan, a Wusthof Classic 8 inch hollow-ground chef’s knife and a Wusthof honing steel. I stress not about my outfits for the week, but about my meals for the week. At this point in my life, I feel like I live and breathe food.

My love for food and cooking has evolved from calling 2 packets of beef flavored ramen a meal in college to creating and executing a 5 course meal this past Valentine’s Day. I’ve come a long way, to say the least.

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I eat: Cube Marketplace

For my 4th dineLA experience, I opted for lunch since we had just spent $$$$ on what will surely be one of the most memorable meals of 2010: Petrossian.

Since Cube was fresh in my mind after reading about it recently, I looked up their menu for dineLA and quickly began to salivate. Braised maple bacon and truffle burger? SOLD! We made reservations for a rainy Friday afternoon, which in retrospect, was a poor decision on my part since traffic is RIDICULOUS in all directions on Fridays + it was raining. We arrived at noon, 30 mins late for our reservation (we called to let them know), and the place was practically empty at that time. People began trickling in after we were seated and by the time we left, there weren’t any tables available.

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I knew what I wanted to order off of the dineLA menu, but as I was browsing through the regular menu, I saw mac and cheese and I just couldn’t resist. What can I say… I’m such a sucker for mac and cheese! After we placed our order, the chef sent out an amuse bouche of adelegger cheese, from Germany. Bold with a similar nutty flavor like parmigiano-reggiano. Our first courses were braised maple bacon (of course!) and spicy tuscan bean and sausage soup. The bacon (pork belly) was cooked properly and the celery root puree provided a nice balance to the sweetness of the maple. The soup took on all the great flavors of the sausage and the greens made me feel like I was actually eating, (gasp), healthy. The soup was so comforting, perfect for a rainy day. Our appetizers made us really excited for the rest of the meal.

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For our entrees, we ordered the truffle burger and the lamb panini. When the waiter took our order, he asked if we wanted blue cheese on our burger. He didn’t give us an alternative and I figured why not just try the burger as it was originally prepared: with blue cheese. I’m not the biggest fan of blue cheese since it is so strong, but I can tolerate it. When I took my first bite, I immediately regretted my decision. The blue cheese totally overpowered the entire burger; all I could taste was blue cheese. I found myself trying to scrape off the blue cheese in attempt to save the burger. I don’t feel like I can give an accurate review of the burger since I was so overwhelmed by the blue cheese. The lamb panini was .. ok. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It tasted like really dry roast beef. In fact, it was so dry, the au jus didn’t even help moisten it much.

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My first impression of the mac & cheese was that it looked like school cafeteria mac and cheese (except for the garlic on top). It didn’t taste much better either. Plain, boring and seriously lacking in flavor. Although, I have to say, the balsamic was a nice touch. This was not worth $7.

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Our desserts were more enjoyable. We had the seasonal fruit cobbler duo (cherry and rhubarb) and pots de creme duo (butterscotch and valhrona chocolate). The cobblers were too sweet for my taste, although the ice cream did help cut the sweetness somewhat. I absolutely LOVED the butterscotch creme, but the chocolate creme was extremely bitter; it must have been >70% cacao.

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Overall, I was disappointed. I can see how others would like this restaurant, but the food at Cube Marketplace just didn’t mesh well with my tastes/preferences.

Verdict: 2.5/5
Cube Marketplace
615 North La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

I eat: Petrossian

Not being able to secure a reservation at The Bazaar during dineLA, I thought I was settling by going to Petrossian instead. Now, I think it was meant to be. Petrossian is a gourmet food boutique and restaurant located in West Hollywood, specializing in caviar. It first appeared on my radar when I heard about their infamous black truffle mac and cheese. Yes, I have a love affair with mac and cheese. Even though the mac and cheese wasn’t on their dineLA dinner menu, I decided to give Petrossian a try away .. with every intention of ordering the mac and cheese on the side.

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While waiting for the waiter to take our order, I browsed through the regular menu and “caviar pizza” caught my eye. That’s not something you can pass up, right? Right. So we ordered the caviar pizza AND mac and cheese IN ADDITION to the 3 course Dine-LA meal. I think the waiter thought we were crazy, or at least, fat asses.

Executive Chef Ben Bailly, who is very good looking by the way, sent out the classic cold borscht soup as amuse bouche. It was so refreshing and delicious!

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The mac and cheese and caviar pizza were brought out first and these two items totally blew the rest of the meal out of the water; everything else just paled in comparison. It was, HANDS DOWN, the best mac and cheese I’ve ever eaten! Rich and creamy, real truffle shavings, smokey bacon flavor – what more can you ask for from a mac and cheese? And the caviar pizza, wow. The creme fraiche as the pizza “sauce” was simply amazing and tied all the ingredients (chives, capers, red onions, caviar) together beautifully.

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With our bellies already filled with mac and cheese and caviar pizza, we began the Dine-LA meal. Our first courses were the shrimp “papillote” and the tsar cut salmon sampler. The shrimp “papillote” had easily recognizable flavors – the chili/ginger sauce was the sweet thai chili sauce you can find at most grocery stores (in asian/international section). The shrimp were perfectly tender, due to being cooked “en papillote” with wonton wrappers. I found it very surprising that I didn’t like the salmon sampler, since I love salmon in all forms (smoked, cured, baked, broiled, fried).

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For entrees, we had the halibut brandade and the braised pork belly (of course!). Brandade is traditionally a puree consisting of salt cod, olive oil, and milk/cream, and Chef Bailly’s twist with halibut was wonderful! I think the substitution of halibut was a great choice since cod and halibut are both texturally firm and dense. Since the halibut is a mild flavor fish, the addition of piquillo peppers really stood out in a good way. The only thing I didn’t like was the black olive oil surrounding the brandade. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first. It sort of tasted a little bit like rust with a hint of fruitiness in the back end. YUCK! As for the pork belly, it was a little too overcooked. It did, however, have great flavor.

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The desserts were both enjoyable. The pistachios used in the Sicilian pistachio creme brulee are probably Bronte pistachios from Sicily, which would explain the vague floral note. The vanilla panna cotta was creamy and delicious; it was basically a high end yogurt parfait.

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My meal at Petrossian was the best Dine-LA experience I’ve had so far. I would have rated the meal highly even if I hadn’t ordered the mac and cheese and caviar pizza. I can’t wait to come back and try the other dishes on the menu. I have my eyes set on the foie gras salad 🙂

Verdict: 4/5
Petrossian Restaurant & Boutique
321 North Robertson Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90048

9,600 ft.

Even though Mammoth is always awesome, I’ve always wanted to go snowboarding outside of California (Nevada side of Tahoe doesn’t really count). So, when Southwest Airlines launched their $30, $60, $90 promotion last year, Henry and I jumped at the opportunity and booked a trip to Colorado instantly. Round trip ticket for $120? SCORE! After much deliberation, we decided to forgo the big pricey resorts like Aspen/Snowmass and Vail for Breckenridge. This decision was based partially on the outrageous cost of an SUV rental: $600. To save about $300, we used the Colorado Mountain Express (CME) shuttle service to get to and from Denver International Airport (DIA). This meant that we relied solely on public transportation while in Breckenridge, which was fine since Breck’s “Free Shuttle” system was easy enough to navigate and very efficient. However, when you have 10 bags of groceries and a 24 pack of water to carry, not having your car can be quite a hindrance. We made our grocery trip work by taking a rolling luggage with us!

We stayed at Pine Ridge Condominiums (#6B), located right on the Four O’Clock run. The condo itself was better than I expected – we had stainless steel cookware and a great knife. It really is the little things in life that matter! 😛 We had two options, book through Expedia or book directly through the condo website. The condo website provided a rating system from silver to platinum to help guests gauge the general condition of the condo. Compared to Expedia, the equivalent condo in price booked through the condo website would have been a “silver” – no renovations within the last 5 years. We weren’t thrilled with the few options that we had on the condo website so we decided to take our chances and book through Expedia, especially since it was actually slightly cheaper to do so. By booking through Expedia, the worse case scenario would have been getting the exact condo we expected, but at a cheaper price. Taking our chances paid off because we ended up in a condo that was considered “gold”, which would cost $300 more if we booked through the website!

Poor lighting, I know.

The town of Breckenridge sits at 9,600 ft. above sea level. At high altitudes, reduced air pressure and lower oxygen concentration decreases the amount of oxygen that enters your bloodstream which, for some people, causes the onset of altitude sickness. The day we arrived in Breckenridge, Henry was already experiencing a few telltale symptoms. I didn’t have any symptoms so I thought I was in the clear for the whole trip. Boy, was I wrong. I totally forgot that all the literature I read up about altitude sickness stated that symptoms were usually worse the 2nd day at higher altitude. And like clockwork, we woke up the next morning with pounding headaches and shortness of breath. Henry also had some nausea and light-headedness. We had planned to start our day early and head up to the mountain at 9:30am, but we didn’t get out of bed until 10am because we felt like shit. To save that day from being a complete waste, we decided to go to Keystone for their “twilight” boarding (2pm-close/8pm). Keystone/Arapahoe Basin is about a 20 min bus ride (take the Swan Mountain Flyer/black line) from Breckenridge. Even though only the front side of the mountain stays open for night boarding (starting from 4pm), the runs were great.. and long! I didn’t get bored from the green and blue runs as I had expected. It was actually perfect since I was able to challenge myself to go faster.

I love feeling like I’m the only one on the mountain!

A huge part of our trip, as with all snowboarding trips, was cooking our meals, which explains why we had 10 bags of groceries. We do this because: 1) we love to cook, 2) it saves money, 3) it’s much healthier than eating hamburgers/hotdogs on the mountain. Our favorite meals were the cheesesteaks that we made for lunch, parmesan crusted pork chops (Giada’s recipe) for dinner and the spaghetti bolognese (with arriabata sauce) that ended up being lunch AND dinner.. for me at least.

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Aside from the pounding headaches, our trip to Breck was fantastic. It snowed the whole time we were there, which some would consider a bad thing since that usually means low visibility. But to me, any snow is great.. I ain’t complaining! And its true, the snow in Colorado is different. The snow is really light and dry unlike the wetter snow in Southern California (due to the humidity). My only gripe about Breck is that there are 4 Peaks: Peak 7, 8, 9 and 10 and manuevering from peak to peak can be difficult at times. We tried to avoid that as much as possible by spending one day on Peaks 7 & 8 and another day on Peaks 9 & 10.  

I can’t wait to go back to Colorado and check out the other resorts, but I’m shooting for Utah next.