Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Natas Pastries + Portuguese Pasteis de Nata

Being part Chinese, I’m no stranger to the ubiquitous egg custard tarts or dan tat that little kids and old folks, alike, clamor for at dim sum restaurants. They’re crispy, buttery, delicate and flaky on the outside and lightly sweet, rich, creamy and decadent on the inside.  They’re absolutely delicious and insanely addicting. I hate to admit it, but I’ve probably run over and tackled an old Chinese lady or two, trying to get my grubby paws on the last ones. What I wasn’t too familiar with, in spite of my Portuguese side, is the dan tat’s predecessor and European influencer, the Portuguese pasteis de nata. So you can imagine my excitement when I came across Natas Pastries, a Portuguese bakery and café in Sherman Oaks. I could finally do a taste off between both egg custard tarts and determine whose dessert reigned supreme.

I thought there would be a clear winner, but after trying the pasties de nata, I was just as confused as I ever was. Because to be honest with you, I couldn’t decide. They’re both so magically delicious. Making me choose would be the equivalent of having me choose which one of my kids I like better. Granted, I don’t have any children but you get my point. I just couldn’t do it. But consider my addiction for all egg custard tarts, dan tats, pasties de natas and all, reawakened. So next time you see me at the Portuguese bakery or the Cantonese dim sum restaurant, be sure not to stand between me and my dessert or somebody might get hurt. Consider yourself warned.

For those of you who don’t have easy access to a Portuguese bakery near you, here are my favorite recipes to try to make your own here and here.

If you’re wondering how a Portuguese pastry ended up in your local Chinese restaurant, here’s a quick history lesson:

Beginning in the 1550s, Portuguese merchants were heavily involved in trade with China by way of Macau. This resulted in Macau being rented to the Portuguese as a trading port in 1557, which subsequently led to Macau becoming a colony of the Portuguese Empire from 1887 through 1999. It goes without saying that during their extensive time there, the Portuguese definitely left their mark. And they did so in the form of a pastry. Their pasties de nata were so well received by the Chinese and interwoven into their culture, that to this day, the pasties de natas, dan tats, egg custard tarts or whatever you’d like to call them, can be found all over China, including their KFCs and McDonalds. In fact, they’ve become such a Cantonese dim sum staple that most people attribute the egg custard tart solely as a Chinese culinary invention without realizing its European roots. The Chinese variety, uses more of a puff pastry dough crust versus the Portuguese version that uses more of a layered phyllo dough crust and has a hint of lemon and cinnamon. Both are exquisite.

Natas Pastries

13317 Ventura Blvd  Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

818.788.8050

Arts & Crafts Design DIY

DIY Home Edition: Custom Pin Boards + Virtual Obsessions

I’m definitely a person who gets inspired (and distracted) by beautiful and amazing imagery whether in photos or in real life. Add to that, my tech obsession and you’ve got yourself a bonafide Pinterest fiend. So when the site came on the scene, you can imagine my immediate addiction for this easy as pie yet powerful bookmarking tool. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that during the first few weeks of its release, many a late nights were spent scouring the internet for DIY ideas, dream home decor, and recipes for dinner parties I was yet to host. Pinterest is for women what fantasy football is for men. Except the former might actually result in a refurbished coach or an impeccably themed and decorated baby shower. (I’ve never heard any man coach an NFL game as a result of playing fantasy football…just sayin’)

Not unlike most addictions, as time went on, this innocent pastime turned into an odd form of virtual hoarding of images that I rarely referred back to because I had aggregated so many. In an attempt to rectify my virtual imagery compulsions, I wanted to get back to basics. So I decided to focus my inspiration with the classic, finite, and more importantly, tangible vision board.

For this particular project, I opted for a modern twist on the traditional corkboard by covering a foam board with a clean patterned fabric in neutral colors. I also relied on the pins to give it some edge and to tie the entire concept together. Thoughtful yet effortless, not unlike Pinterest.

CUSTOM CHEVRON PIN / VISION BOARD

SUPPLIES

  • 2 ft x 3 ft x ½ in sheet of plywood
  • 2 ft x 3 ft x ½ in sheet of foam
  • 2.5 ft x 3.5 ft of fabric of your choice (when purchasing the fabric, make sure the pattern that you choose will be in the direction in which you would like your pin board to hang)
  • thumbtacks
  • ruler
  • staple gun
  • 1/4 in size staples
  • any frame hooks
  • nails

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Iron fabric to remove any wrinkles
  2. Lay fabric backside up
  3. Place sheet of foam in center of fabric so there is a 3 inch border of fabric around all sides of the foam
  4. Place sheet of plywood on top of foam so they are perfectly aligned on top of each other
  5. At the center of one side of the fabric, fold the 3 inch border of extra fabric over the edge of the foam and plywood sheets and hold it taught
  6. Take your staple gun and carefully staple the fabric onto the plywood at that center location. Continue to staple that side until fabric is secured onto plywood.
  7. Make sure that the fabric is pulled tight and repeat on opposite side.
  8. Repeat on remaining sides.
  9. Turn pin board over. ½ inch from the edge, pin equally spaced out thumbtacks around the border of the board.
  10. Orient board the way you would like it to hang on the wall (horizontal or vertical). Turn pin board over. Center hook to top edge of pin board. Hammer hook onto edge of pin board. Et voilà! You’ve got yourself a custom pin board to pin anything

 

Dined & Dished Dining Food Food & Entertaining Fun Restaurants

Dined & Dished: Tar & Roses + Pig Tails

The great thing about growing up in an Asian household is that you’re introduced to a lot of “interesting” foods like chicken feet, sea cucumber and fish sauce that other eight year olds may not have so much as been made privy to, let alone been forced to eat. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, with a tiger mom like mine, even if it looked ugly, sounded weird or smelled bad, if it was placed in front of your face, you had to eat it. No ifs, ands or buts…well, maybe chicken butts…but that’s a whole other conversation. So learning from a very young age that being picky was not an option really cultivated my palate and openness to try and truly enjoy pretty much anything. Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods got nothing on my family.

So when I took a sneak peek at the menu at Tar & Roses in Santa Monica, I was super excited to see that they were serving crispy pig tails with sriracha, honey and cilatro. Finally! A childhood favorite that hadn’t been completely hijacked, bougie-fied, hyped up and played out by the culinary world just yet (ie: bone marrow, banh mi sandwiches, pig ears…I could go on and on). To be honest with you, I went in expecting to be disappointed but instead, I was very pleasantly surprised. No joke. It was really really good. Crispy, tender, flavorful, rich, unctuous, slightly sweet, perfectly salted and just enough spice. What more could a girl ask for in a pig tail?

We ordered a few different dishes that were all fabulous. But the standouts for me were definitely the following:

1. Crispy pig tails with sriracha, honey and cilantro
2. Wood roasted English peas with mint and sea salt
3. Skate wing with lemon risotto, pea tendrils and salsa verde
4. Duck liver paté bruschetta

So if you find yourself on the west side, be sure to pull your hair back, get your hands dirty and pig out.

Tar & Roses

602 Santa Monica Boulevard

Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 587-0700

Arts & Crafts Design DIY

DIY Home Edition: Faux Porcelain Jars + The Process

As a kid growing up in Ellensburg, I can honestly say that I had the best childhood I could have ever asked for. We lived in a small town where we were encouraged to go out and play freeze tag in the front yard, get our hands dirty and catch crawfish in the local creek, and ride bikes with the neighbor’s kids just so long as we got home before dark. I never felt like we were lacking even though we didn’t have much. My parents worked in a canning factory during corn season, and my dad was a gardener while my mom cleaned house during the off season. We ate at home every morning, noon and night. To put it lightly, we were far from being the rich kids on the block. But to be honest, I can’t say that I was any less happy then, than I am now.

Unbeknownst to us as children, our lack of things forced us to live without. And when you live without, you realize that you don’t need much to be happy. Because all that was missing were things. We had everything else. We had each other.

But on those days when you’re bored and the hand me down Monopoly with missing parts and pieces from the Salvation Army just isn’t cutting it anymore, you just get creative, as children often do, and you make your own board game. Half the fun was in the time spent working together with my brother and sister and creating something with our own imagination and producing it with our bare hands. No one cared if it was ugly, that it was made from squares drawn on a brown paper bag, or that our tokens were pebbles instead of a brass top hat. To us, it was awesome. It was fun. It was perfect. We may not have noticed then, but it helped us build our creative muscles, appreciate the resources and efforts that allowed us to have the things that we did have; however limited they might have been. And it taught us to value the process over the product, the journey instead of the destination.

Fast forward twenty years later, and although we’ve traded in our hand me downs for a new pair of Giuseppe Zanottis every now and again, our values have pretty much remained the same. We still reuse our paper bags, repurpose our old T-shirts and recycle our empty cans, not because we have to but because we appreciate the story behind each object.

So recently, when I had the luxury to come across the conflict of what to do with my beautifully architectured yet highly branded empty jars of ridiculously expensive face cream, I couldn’t bare the thought of simply throwing them away. (Literally. I tossed them in the recycle bin just to fish them back out five minutes later.) The non-waster in me couldn’t simply trash them, especially when so much thought went in to designing the perfect container that balanced functionality and art and all the high quality materials that went into manufacturing it. So not to let a perfectly good upcycling opportunity go to waste (For the record, we were upcycling before there was such a thing as “upcycling”, and it wasn’t yet publicly applauded on Pinterest.), I cleaned out my jars, picked up a can of spray paint from the local hardware store and voilà! In a matter of minutes, I had two pristine and modern decorative and functional “porcelain” jars. And this time, the product was just as beautiful as the process.

FAUX PORCELAIN JARS

SUPPLIES

  • 2-3 nicely structured empty jars
  • 1 can of flat or matte spray paint (I chose Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch Ultra Cover in Flat White)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wipe the inside with a cotton pad to make sure all the remaining cream is removed. Wipe the outside with a dry cloth to remove any dust or debris.
  2. Unscrew lid so there is a gap between the base and lid of the jar. Do not remove lid.
  3. Make sure the exterior of the jar is dry. Shake spray paint for 1 minute to make sure it is thoroughly mixed. Hold can12 inches away from jar and start spraying in a slow steady motion around the jar until the jar is covered. Let paint dry for 10 minutes and add a second coat if necessary. Let paint dry over night.