Do Not Adjust Your Cyan: The Malaysian Food Edition

Golly, every time I post something, it seems as if I should be adding a new category.  But what could that category be for today’s post?  Rice? Botany?  Printers?

By now, we’ve established that I’ll eat almost anything.  That goes for food, too.  In spite of this culinary agnosticism, I still get tickled by some dishes…

ipoh-malaysia-blue-rice-nasi-kerabuThis somewhat unusual – outside of its homeland – meal was discovered at a roadside stall in Ipoh, Malaysia.  Although Ipoh is a Cantonese stronghold, as mentioned above, I like eating edible things, so I stuck with the Burmese, and in this case, Malaysian food.

It’s called nasi kerabu, which literally translates as “rice with raw vegetables/fruits.”  The topping consisted of dried fried coconut and fish…misleading much?

If you’re lucky – in place of the more likely artificial food colorant – the blue color of the ostentatious rice comes from the butterfly pea flower (in Malay, it’s bunga telang), a plant which is also consumed fried, and as a drink.

Posted in East & Southeast Asia, Food & Drink | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Event Review: 2016 New York City Wine and Food Festival

Note: In exchange for an event review of the 2016 New York City Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting, I received one entry ticket.

The 9th annual Food Network/Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival – the largest of its kind in New York – occurred from October 13-16th at venues throughout Manhattan.  In spite of its grandiose presence, 100% of the net proceeds go to the Food Bank For New York City and the No Kid Hungry® organization.  The NYCWFF was inspired by Miami’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival, which was first held in 2002.

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-1Entry was somewhat chaotic, made worse – I hate to say it this way – by having to wait outside.  What does that mean?  Smokers.

After being corralled into our respective lines, patrons received wristbands with two tear-off portions; one for a gift bag, and another for a wine glass.

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-7White collar Wal-Mart?  Yet, as much as I’d like to, I can’t say that every show in NYC is a mosh pit.

To sum up the show, it was an odd mix of presentations by Food Network/Cooking Channel stars, big brands side-by-side with one-off restaurants and food start-ups, and get sloshed so that you won’t remember you attended the previous day.  Coca-Cola was handing out bottles of their soda, and Delta – the airline, not the faucet company – was present to remind you of how much better food tastes on the ground.

marinara-jarThe nice folks at Victoria gave me a jar of their marinara sauce.

You know what’s good about them, besides their product line?  The ingredients list.  Take the marinara sauce for example; you can look at the label on the photo above, or be glad that whole tomatoes, onions, olive oil, salt, garlic, basil, and spices compose the whole list.  There’s a groovy comparison graphic on their homepage in which you can click on other pasta sauce brands to lament about see what their ingredients are.

Recently, they’ve begun to use avocado oil for some of their products…will have to try that one next.

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-2There were a handful of memorable bites at the New York Wine and Food Festival.  Casa Lever had a nice scallop dish, and another booth offered the polenta and sardine with bread crumbs and pine nuts dish photographed above.  I apologize for not having photos of everything mentioned.

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-3This jackfruit-focused amuse-bouche took me back to my time in Indonesia.  The preparation style of the nangka, or jackfruit – a sweet stew – was the same, though I would’ve gotten a kick seeing “Carolina slaw” on a Jakarta menu.

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-8Earlier in the week, I was invited to a wagyu event at the Institute for Culinary Education.  Wagyu (和牛/ わぎゅう ), translated as Japanese beef, come with individualized identification cards.  That is to say, if you ever wanted to know where – as a buyer – your cow came from/what its diet was/when it made it to the abattoir, you can search online with that cattle’s 10-digit code.

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-5Samsung was one of the main sponsors of the event.  Jumping on that dubious bandwagon were a number of Korean booths, offering samples of fermented foods, seaweed and in this delicious case, kabocha soup.

Korea, perhaps you should concentrate solely on food exports?

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-6(My) winner for greatest brand at the show- Malk.  Check out this The Simpsons clip for reference.

Pretty good, too, and even better, no sugar added.  I’m waiting for the right time to try the chocolate pecan milk.

I can also assure you that I didn’t go hungry that day, though I may have left in a bit of a stupor.  Yep, various liquor brands – not limited to wine – were present throughout the show…

2016-new-york-city-wine-and-food-festival-at-pier-94-4Pisco, mezcal, gin, whiskey, vodka, plenty of wine and beer?  Yep.  But the standout, at least by flavor profile, was the Strega saffron liqueur.  An herbal delight.

Did you make it to the New York City Wine & Food Festival this year?  Is it now on your list for next year?

Posted in Event, Food & Drink, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ken-Ken’s (Controversial) Cuttlefish from Singapore

I’m a yuge big fan of seafood.  Anytime of the day, even lunch.  In general, I’ll opt for some grilled octopus or freshly shucked oysters over a slab of cow meat…or at least, alongside said steak.

That said, I don’t generally eat seafood as a portable snack, unless it’s on a skewer or in a fritter.  Japanese convenience stores have me slightly perplexed with their dried anchovies and almonds, and who knows if that‘s really food in those Chinese vacuum-sealed packs.

Though, every now and then, I’ll give it another go.  Enter, Ken-Ken‘s cuttlefish, from Singapore.  Although the taste was rather ho-hum – it was dry and bland – perhaps there’s a reason I don’t quite go for prepackaged sea creatures…

hong-kong-sar-ken-ken-cuttlefish-chewing-gum-of-the-orientalsChewing gum of the orientals–” once consumed, immediately wash your mouth out with soap, or at the very least, brush your teeth.

Posted in China & Hong Kong, East & Southeast Asia, Food & Drink | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Japan’s J!NS (JINS) Eyeglasses

Note: In exchange for a pair of eyeglasses, I am writing this review about J!NS (JINS) -@jinseyewear – the Japanese eyeglasses company.

Even after countless visits to Japan, I only heard about J!NS at a New York event earlier this year.  There’s a good reason for that…when I’m in Japan, I’m there to eat, or to buy edible souvenirs.

For a bit of backstory, J!NS entered the eyeglasses market in 2001, and opened its first international store in Shenyang, Manchuria China in 2010.  This April, they entered the US market with a flagship store in San Francisco, and now count four US stores among their more than 400 around the world. You can even order a pair online, pick it up within an hour at one of their US branches.

Is New York in the running for its own J!NS?  I have a hunch that the answer is yes.

What stands out about J!NS?  If you’re simply looking for a quick pair of glasses, you can get them in roughly 30 minutes, thanks to Kanna, their lens edging machine.  It is named for a 鉋(かんな/kanna), the Japanese word for a carpenter’s plane, used in carving wood.  Special orders – say, for glasses with blue light protection – take around two weeks to process.


The clean and welcoming San Francisco flagship J!NS, with Kanna in the background.

Although I only ever want a basic frame, J!NS has nearly 1200 different styles from which to choose.  Reminding me of Uniqlo and their seasonal “themes,” J!NS also has collaborations with various brands both for their frames and eyeglasses cases.  Even better- if you purchase a collaboration case, 100% of the proceeds go to charity.

Most recently, J!NS has been working on a pair of glasses that might be able to warn you about signs of lethargy/inactivity, which would function in tandem with an app.  That’s nice and all, but tell me one thing, oh “smartglasses…” is J!NS an acronym?

Thanks again for the glasses, J!NS, and I look forward to your probable East Coast expansion!

Posted in Clothing, East & Southeast Asia, Japan, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Product Reviews: Harmless Harvest and Raaka Virgin Chocolate

Note: In exchange for a brief review, I received the following products:

Today’s mentions include Harmless Harvest‘s coconut water and coconut water with fair trade coffee, and Raaka Virgin Chocolate’s chocolate bars with ghost pepper, pink sea salt, and coconut milk.

harmless-harvest-coconut-water-and-coconut-water-with-fair-trade-coffeeHarmless Harvest was founded in Brooklyn in 2009, and began selling its delicious organic coconut water from Thailand in 2011.  They relocated their operations to San Francisco in 2012, set up a factory in Thailand the following year, and were recognized as a Fair for Life company in 2014.

Although I still have my scruples about any organization with such designations, there appears to be much truth to Harmless Harvest’s claim.  They reinvest in the Thai communities in which they conduct business, and even let locals decide how a mutually-decided subsidy should be allocated.

By the way, every notice that some bottles of coconut water (including the two above) are pink?  Well, that’s not a reflection of any particular neighborhood…rather, it has to do with how certain antioxidants react when exposed to light.

When a fresh coconut is nowhere to be found, Harmless Harvest is my go-to brand.

raaka-virgin-chocolate-ghost-pepper-pink-sea-salt-and-coconut-milkRaaka Virgin Chocolate is a Brooklyn-based chocolate firm that somehow, convinced me to start eating chocolate again.  You see, I was taking a short break and focused more on sweet potatoes and honey over the summer, but now chocolate is back in the fray.

By the way, raaka is not a Syrian city.  It’s a Finnish word meaning raw.

Raaka Virgin Chocolate primarily sources from the Dominican Republic, but they also partner with cacao collectives in Bolivia, the DRC (it’s in Africa, silly), and Belize.

There was a time not so long ago that I frowned upon olive oil/chocolate/whatever companies that added flavors to their base products.  You know, basil/garlic/durian-infused olive oil, or, as noted above, ghost pepper, pink sea salt, and coconut milk chocolate.  To me, it was if they wanted to mask something of inferior quality.  That said, with Raaka Virgin Chocolate, I was actually able to taste the smooth flavor of the chocolate along with the respective subtleties of heat, salt and creamy coconut.

Well done, folks.

Oh, and if you ever wanted to see how chocolate could be produced, you can visit them in Red Hook!

Posted in Food & Drink, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Event Review: The 2016 Great Big Bacon Picnic (Brooklyn, New York)

Note: In exchange for an event review, I received a VIP ticket to The Great Big Bacon Picnic in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-3To think I’m still full.  The bacon…the meat…the alcohol…yet The Great Big Bacon Picnic ended four days ago.  Having picnic tables was something of a cruel joke – relax for a few hours – but then you eventually have to stand up.

Was it worth it?  Let’s find out.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-15For one, Casper, the mattress company, donated a few sleeping pods; they predicted that us carnivores (and lushes) might need a quiet spot to overcome our food comas.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-8New Mexico was well-represented, at least in vexillogical form.  If only that booth had proffered Hatch chilies and eggs, I would’ve camped out in front.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-5In keeping with the breakfast theme, Traif, a Williamsburg-based pork-focused eatery, prepared doughnuts with bacon on top.  Traif, by the way, signifies anything unkosher.  Even better?  The Great Big Bacon Picnic took place in a particularly Orthodox Jewish part of Brooklyn.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-14New American” meets Taiwanese pork buns, with a side of sweet vinegary pork in the background.

Boonnum’s Kitchen, the Thai entrant – my favorite savory vendor of the day (forgot to take a photo, but lettuce and bacon were present)- asked if I wanted to take their chili plants home.  This was because I requested my dish to be peht peht, extra hot.  After discovering their stall, I added peppers to every meal.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-6A hamburger with bacon from Sweet Science, pork belly ssam from Cow & Clover, a bacon cheese nibble from PJ Clarke’s, and a big slab of sweet bacon.  I was stuffed before I realized that I could go back for fourths.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-11This funnel cake bacon hamburger did look like a lot of fun, but it wasn’t.  That said, I’m open to trying your version.

the-great-big-bacon-picnic-williamsburg-brooklyn-new-york-25sep2016-1A bacon bloody mary?  That is so April 2016.  This time, to wash everything down, I had a bacon egg cream.

So, as petitioned up thread, was it worth it?  YES, yes it was.

Posted in Event, Food & Drink, New York City | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: Long Island City (LIC) Food Tour with Queens Food Tours

Note: In exchange for a review, Queens Food Tours offered me a spot on their inaugural fall 2016 Long Island City food tour.

When a New Yorker refers to Long Island, we’re referencing Nassau and Suffolk counties…even though New York City‘s boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn are geographically a part of the island.  Just call someone from Bayside or Bensonhurst a Long Islander, and see what happens.  OK, so it’s not as cathartic as calling a Taiwanese person Chinese – as true as it might be – but that political border between New York City and “Long Island” can still be a source of contention.

So then, why Queens, have you a neighborhood called Long Island City?  Simply because it’s at one of the westernmost points of the island, as if to remind visitors about their current location?  On second thought, that’s a fair reason.  Trite, but fair.

In any event – as a local – I was never that keen on specifically visiting a place called Long Island City (better known as LIC), but I did want to see exactly what kind of foods Queens Food Tours would showcase in that rapidly re-developing section of Queens.

For the nearly three hours we were on the tour, Richard was our affable guide.  He’s a native of Queens, and fervently proud of his home borough.  If you accidentally catch a glimpse of Manhattan while walking throughout LIC, forgot about that other long island for a bit, and appreciate what New York City’s 2nd-most populous county offers…

queens-food-tours-local-finds-long-island-city-fall-preview-tour-24sep2016-2…such as The Burger Garage, close to the Citigroup building at Court Square.  We started the tour at this casual eatery, which was dotted with license plates and tires to reflect its and its neighbors’ past as a garage.  Good burger, too…though I’m perpetually hungry for more.

queens-food-tours-local-finds-long-island-city-fall-preview-tour-24sep2016-6Nearby is the old Supreme Court of New York City, Queens edition.  Originally built in 1874, it is now most popular as a tv set.  Also, it was Willie Sutton’s adulthood “home.”

queens-food-tours-local-finds-long-island-city-fall-preview-tour-24sep2016-3A chocolate and sea salt cookie at the LIC Corner Cafe.

While ambling through LIC’s varied streets, we learned about Long Island City’s heavily industrial past, and how it supplied the US during both World War I and World War II with significant numbers of aircraft and munitions.

queens-food-tours-local-finds-long-island-city-fall-preview-tour-24sep2016-5A Scotch egg at Woodbines, close to the 21 Street-Van Alst G subway station.  Just before this nosh, Richard told us about the history of PS1, the first public school in New York City, which has been converted into an offshoot of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art.

queens-food-tours-local-finds-long-island-city-fall-preview-tour-24sep2016-4The owner of Manducati’s Rustica might as well be mayor of Long Island City.  She’s as local as you can get, knows all about what’s happening around town, and happened to serve up some quality pizza to boot. Pizza, in New York City, you say?  Good call.

queens-food-tours-local-finds-long-island-city-fall-preview-tour-24sep2016-1The last stop on the tour– an almond croissant at Cannelle, featuring a pastry chef formerly of the Waldorf=Astoria.  Not knowing how pastries were at that hotel, I can’t exactly – and won’t – compare, but if this particular almond croissant was around the corner from my home, I’d need to get a wider door.

Thanks again Richard and Queens Food Tours for the invitation, the history lesson, and the good grub! Now let’s see what you folks can do in Richmond Hill.

Posted in Food & Drink, New York City, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment