Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dinner at Domo in Denver

Ben had been talking up the restaurant he wanted to take us to dinner and I admit I was a little skeptical - Denver and Japanese food didn't seem to be a likely pairing. And then we arrived and I saw this:

And fell in love with this charming restaurant - it's a little Japanese oasis found on the outskirts of Denver. And the interior was just as cool as the exterior, delivering on the perfect atmosphere to deliver "country style" Japanese food .  As you can tell from everyone's faces, we were all excited for the meal ahead (and for those of you who guessed that I forced everyone to pose for pictures all weekend, you are also right!)

With a 7 pm dinner reservation, I was surprised how empty the restaurant was. Not that I was complaining, it gave us plenty of time to soak in the atmosphere while we waiting for Miley and her boyfriend Curt to join us :

Once they arrived, we placed for our order for drinks - Andrew ordered his standard tall Sapporo but was pleasantly surprised by the metal tankard that accompanied it.  It kept the beer nice and cold although we felt like we were dining in medieval times!

Ben, Amy and I opted for a sake drink special that resembled a mojito and I loved it - I found it delicious and refreshing:
The best part about eating at Domo is that every meal is accompanied by seven free side dishes that are mean to be shared family style across the table. Considering that these were generously proportioned dishes, it was like getting seven appetizers for free and they were all yummy. It was a good mix between all veggie dishes, such as bamboo shoots, pickled radish and broccoli as well as proteins like a beef-stew mixture:

For my entree, I opted for comfort food - a Yamakake noodle bowl, featuring pork, grated Japanese yam and udon noodles. To tell you the truth, I didn't notice the yam at all and I found the pork to be kind of bland but I happily slurped up the noodles and broth. It was just tough to beat the amazing side dishes that were served before our entrees came out.

Domo also features an extensive outdoor patio (we opted to eat indoors because it was a little chilly), garden and a museum on the premises, so we decided to stroll around after our meal:

Did I mention that Domo also has a large Aikido studio?

The museum section was crammed full of collectibles such as vintage sake cups, clothing and cooking utensils. It was a lot to take in all at once:

This room could've been taken straight out of a samurai castle/museum I toured in Hiroshima:

As I was walking out the door, I noticed this display - mind you, it was in the restaurant section of Domo, not the museum half. It's supposedly two million year old salt from Mongolia and I believe the little vial on the right offered restaurant patrons the chance to taste it - I didn't try it and I'm torn now whether 1) that was the wise decision or 2) I missed out on an incredible for those of you who do end up going, try it and let me know! :)

After Domo, we headed to another section of Denver to enjoy a night of karaoke (Curt was brave enough to belt out a song for the crowd) and bar hopping.  Then it was straight to bed, since we needed to get up at a decent time on Sunday morning to head to Boulder!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Checking Out Cherry Creek, Denver

When Ben picked us up, he drove us to one of Denver's most charming neighborhoods, Cherry Creek, to meet up with another former Bostonian - Kat, and to enjoy brunch at a magical place called Syrup:

Bear with me, because I know the exterior is nondescript and doesn't reveal the wondrous food that serve inside - things like warm beignets that you can dip into syrup:

Not just any syrup - with our meal, we had a flight of syrups (why hasn't anyone in Boston thought of this) that included flavors like blackberry, maple-vanilla complete with vanilla bean flecks, strawberry, buttermilk and agave honey.  We all had a kick (as you can see in the picture above) pouring a little of each on our plates and trying each one. Surprisingly, my favorite was the agave:

Having satisfied my sweet tooth with the syrup sampling, I opted for a savory, glorious Cherry Creeker Eggs Benedict served on a croissant with mounds of  slow-roasted, tender corned beef hash like I've never tasted. It ranks as the best Eggs Benedict I've ever had.

Cherry Creek is filled with a mixture of fun and upscale retailers, ranging from places like Penzey's Spices (I made a pit stop and stocked up), West Elm and for those who are young at heart, The Wizard's Chest!

The first floor is filled with games and puzzles but the second floor is all costumes and props! Ben and Kat graciously modeled the latest in head gear:

Amy and Andrew were drawn to the classic Jaws look:

Actually, that picture has a bit of foreshadowing because what did we do next? Wander around Cherry Creek Mall to kill time before we watched "Shark Night 3D" in the movie theatre.  Needless to say, it was not my first choice to spend our first day in Denver watching a bad, bad movie.  However, it was the type of movie that Amy and Ben would watched as roommates for the three (?) years that they lived together so it seemed fitting in a way.

Afterwards, we headed for the hills - in this case, the outskirts of Denver to Ben's house so we could feed his rescue pit bull, Mandy (only the sweetest thing ever), enjoy a beer and enjoy the view.  This isn't the view from his backyard but it shows how close Denver's downtown area:
As dinner time rolled around, we wondered if anything could top brunch from earlier in the day...this was before we arrived at Domo... 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Nachos and Big Blue Bear in Denver

Andrew, Amy and I had the pleasure of spending Labor Day weekend in Denver, my first time in the lovely state of Colorado.  Our purpose was to catch up with our friend Ben (Amy's old roommate and Andrew's best friend from law school).  Our flight was originally supposed to get us to Denver at around 7 pm, but as our flight was descending, we were suddenly told that severe thunderstorms were preventing any flights from landing so we got re-routed to Amarillo, Texas.  Now, we didn't leave the plane for the time we were landed in Amarillo but I can safely say that based on what I saw from my window, there ain't much happening there.

Three hours and two fueling attempts (the first fuel truck ran out of gas while filling us), we made it into Denver past 10 pm. Of course, there was a backup at this point at the passenger pick-up area, because everyone and their mother was trying to get to the airport to pick up someone up, now that previously delayed flights were allowed to land.  So it was really almost 11 pm by the time we made it into Ben's car.

He was a good sport, and sensing how cranky/tired/hungry we were, he took us to a popular downtown Denver bar to unwind, and enjoy some beer and food.

We checked out Wynkoop Brewing Company, which bills itself as Denver's oldest brewpub.  Sidenote: we had a friendly guy sitting next to us on the Boston - Denver flight who chatted all the way through the 3 hour delay, and not only did he recommend Wynkoops but he also said it was started by a man who is currently Denver's mayor.

Wynkoops brews its own beers and after hearing Ben describe the Wixa Weiss as Blue Moon-like, I was sold. And it lived up to my expectations, so I would wholeheartedly recommend it to any weary traveler needing a pick-me-up! (Andrew also enjoyed his Rail Yard Ale, in case you were wondering what he ordered)

As an appetizer, Andrew was insistent that we order nachos and I'm so glad he did.  This is the first time I've seen nachos served this way and it's the most clever thing on earth! The pinto beans, green chili, queso, salsa, sour cream and guacamole were served "dip-style", accompanied by a big basket of salty, greasy, delicious tortilla chips. That way, there were no soggy chips and an even distribution of whatever topping you cared to put your chip into.  I still long for these nachos:

For an entree, I went with buffalo wings and rice (I need rice with all my proteins to fully enjoy them) but unfortunately, the wings were really dry despite being doused in sauce. A bit disappointing after the standout beers and nachos, but I was willing to settle for them considering it was midnight at this point (2 am in Boston - yikes!)

Ben dropped us off at our hotel in downtown Denver (Hyatt Regency Denver, I highly recommend it) so we could crash.  By the time we rolled ourselves out of bed, showered, and considered ourselves ready to face the day, it was 10 am.  Since we had a little time to spare before Ben showed up as our ride to brunch, we explored the neighboring convention center and a work of art that had caught our eye - a big blue bear!

I'm not sure if you can appreciate the scale of how big this bear is, so I've kindly taken a shot from the perspective of looking up at it:

It's a steel structure whose official name is "I See What You Mean" and it measures approximately 40 ft in height. Its creator was seeking to bring whimsy to a "conventional"  (pun intended) area and certainly exceeded as this seemed to be popular with other tourists taking pictures, including, ahem, two people from Boston:

This is Amy and I seeking to insert some whimsy of our own into the photos by doing our best bear impressions...

Luckily, Ben showed up before we could embarrass ourselves further (in a car that the sweet guy had rented for the weekend, solely for the purpose that we would be more comfortable in a roomier car):

And we were off to one of my favorite meals of the whole weekend, brunch!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Birthday Present For You?

I recently had the pleasure of celebrating my birthday (the big 3-1). In my head, I was already thinking I was 31 throughout the month of August which then made me irritated at myself, because why was I aging myself before it was even necessary? But I guess one way to look at it is, I had already made my piece about turning a year older. 

Despite having to work late at work on my birthday, I had a nice family dinner at The Fireplace in Brookline, followed by a Cabot's ice cream cake (my absolute favorite!!) I was also fortunate enough to receive a bunch of wonderful gifts, ranging from a wok (for making stir fry), a hummingbird feeder (to hang within view of our living room bay window) and one of my favorites (courtesy of Andrew's parents) - a Petunia Pickle Bottom wallet!

I was actually turned onto this brand by Amy, who also owns a wallet from this line. The wallets are made from a coated canvas fabric which makes them easy to clean and water repellent, perfect for a slob like myself and they come in a variety of fun patterns.  I think the line is intended for moms (since the brand also makes a lot of baby products) but for now, I'm satisfied with just owning a wallet from their collection.

Since I was shown a lot of love during my birthday month, I wanted to pay it forward and offer a present of my own to my wide audience readers (sarcasm intended).  While I wish I had a wallet to give away, I'm going to making this unique by offering a few of my favorite Korean (and one lone Japanese item) snacks as a sampler pack - most of these are chocolate based, in addition to a little peanut and apple jam action happening.  All are tasty, I promise (and Andrew approved):

I guess a good present would be something you really wanted but in case, I'm giving you a little taste of my Korean childhood. If you're brave enough to try, leave a comment below on the best birthday gift you've ever received.  I'll take entries through this Sunday, September 25 - good luck!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I needed to bring a dessert for a work function and perhaps inspired by living with my dad, who loves peanut butter enough to eat a peanut butter sandwich every day, I was in the mood for a peanut butter cookie. Not that peanut butter cookie recipes are that hard but I decided to go for one from a website I've looked at in the past, Joy the Baker (and no, I don't like simply because my name is Joyce!)

I followed this recipe to a T (even a cautious sprinkle of nutmeg, which to be honest, was maybe too light since I didn't taste it) but added a cup of peanut butter chips to the batter. In my opinion, a good peanut butter chocolate chip cookie has gooey gobs of peanut butter AND chocolate to help balance it all. I also was a bit indecisive in how I approached shaping these cookies - readers know how much I love my Oxo cookie scoops and how efficient (lazy) it's made me in creating cookies. I've turned recipes that aren't techniclly drop cookies into opportunities to use my scoop.  So even though I know a classic peanut butter cookie bears the cross hatch marks from a fork, I was curious to see how the batch would turn out in simple rounded form. Still delicious and moist! And then I started thinking that if I was bringing these to a work event, I needed them to be readily recognizable as peanut butter so people would nut allergies would avoid them. So the next couple of sheets got the fork treatment.

At the end of the day, there really wasn't much of a difference between the two shapes - loyalists would argue that it wouldn't taste as peanut buttery without the traditional shape but to be honest, I think the simple rounded approch had a slight edge in terms moistness/texture in my book. 

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Joy the Baker

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter- crunchy or smooth, but not natural
1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips (decreased slightly to make room for the peanut butter chips)
1 cup of peanut butter chips (my addition)
1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies

PS - Joy the Baker took much better pictures (in my rush, I only snapped one picture) so if you're not feeling inspired to make them, be sure to click on the link above.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 350 degrees F . Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for a minute or two, until smooth and creamy. Add the peanut butter and beat for another minute. Add the sugars and beat for 3 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and, on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they just disappear. Mix in the chocolate chips (and peanut butter chips). You’ll have a soft a pliable dough.

Pour the 1/2 cup sugar into a small bowl. Working with a level tablespoonful of dough for each cookie, roll the dough between your palms into balls and drop the balls, a couple at a time, into the sugar. Roll the balls around in the sugar to coat them, then place on the backing sheet, leaving 2 inches between them. Dip the tines of the fork in the sugar and press the tines against each ball first in one direction and then in a perpendicular direction- you should have a flattened rough of dough with crisscross indentations.

Bake the dough for 12 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and from front to back at the midway point. When done, the cookies will be lightly colored and still be a little soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a minute before transferring them to a cooling rack. Cool to room temperature.

Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure to cool the baking sheets between batches.

EnJOY! :)

PS-What do you think - are a loyalists to the peanut butter cookie look or do you think by adding chips, I was safe to go with the standard chocolate chip cookie shape? And dare I mention that I tried a sheet of cookies without rolling them in sugar because of fears of sweetness (which was sacrilege, I've come to the conclusion that peanut butter cookies MUST ALWAYS be rolled in sugar).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

40th Anniversary Family BBQ

My parent's move back to the US coincided with a big milestone in their marriage - their 40th wedding anniversary! To honor the occasion and to give our extended family a chance to welcome my parents back to the US, we hosted a BBQ in my parent's honor.

With the limited amount of time I had to plan, I was able to find some pictures of my parents from when they were first married (luckily, I had scanned these for use with my wedding) and a few more favorites throughout the years for an impromptu garland strung over our side buffet:
I spent two days after work cutting out the pieces and letters to make a Happy Anniversary banner - I wish I had taken a better picture of the different types of patters/papers I used because if I don't say myself, it came out beautifully:

To celebrate the "40" aspect of the occasion, I made up a trivia quiz asking pop culture questions about the year my parents got married (1971), with the prize being a homemade assortment of popular candy from the  70's.  This required googling similar assortments online (which were overpriced and offered small sample sizes) and the help of a coworker who dropped by Yummie's in Maine for me, but I think ended up with a decent selection of classic candies that had party attendees reminiscing about their favorites:

I've found that hosting a get together often leaves me running around the house like a crazy woman or stuck in the kitchen getting food ready, but I did manage to remember to take a few pictures. Reflecting my Asian upbringing, everyone visiting our place is required to take off their shoes.  I got a kick out of looking at our mudroom and seeing the pile of shoes, the sure sign of a crowd!

My mother-in-law Charlotte brought a beautiful platter of fresh fruit along with my favorite cream cheese/marshmallow fluff dip:

Beautiful wedding-themed, chocolate-dipped strawberries from Konditor Meister:

Also from Konditor Meister, a beautifully decorated cake:

Here are the guests of honor playfully posing for my camera:

If you look closely, you can see Amy popping her way into the pictures:

Did I mention how goofy my family is? And yes, Amy's made it more fully into the background of the picture (along with my cousin Andrea in pink):

Gold cake with layers of banana cream and chocolate - considering the size of the cake (it was sized to feed 20-25 people), it was amazing how quickly it was consumed:

Have you noticed Andrew in the pictures yet? He was stuck grilling the hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers and steak tips for our guests.  Did I mention that it was the Saturday before Hurricane Irene hit so he was stuck in pouring rain and high winds for more than an hour? The poor guy was soaked by the time his grilling duties ended:

Here's a quick shot of the crowd hanging out in the living room, including my in-laws, Amy, cousin Andrew, Amy's roommate Merissa, my parents' honorary son Phu and my dad's cousin Paul in the background:

Our three season porch was also a popular gathering place (perhaps due to the fact that we had all the coolers out here?)

I was expecting more in the way of leftovers but dreading them at the same time, since we didn't want too much food lingering in the fridge in case the power went out the following day during the storm. Luckily thanks to the grazing efforts of my cousins, we didn't have much to put away at the end of the day:

In case you were wondering about who won the trivia contest, my devious cousins were able to answer some questions/get answers from some of the older members of the crowd to win the 70's candy basket - which was for the best, since I think they were the only ones that were young enough to enjoy the sugar rush!

The biggest reward? Seeing my parents interact with family and friends that were present at their wedding 40 years ago and simply enjoy a quintessential American afternoon filled with plenty of food and cold drinks.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer Baking

It's been a hectic summer between work demands, having my house and kitchen taken over by beloved parents (we're almost at the two month mark, not that I'm counting) and just simply not being motivated to bake since it's hot and muggy outside.

I keep feeling guilty that I haven't posted many baking-related posts. I have baked this summer, but either they were not up to my standards in terms of flavor, like:

Another ill-fated combo of fruit and coffee cake (this one had cranberries and mandarin oranges, simply because it was what I had on hand):
Toffee bit cookies - I thought they had no flavor and ended up making the rest of the batch with coconut and chocolate chips added in:

While these weren't bad, they are just old favorites I've made before - chocolate chip cookie bars and black bottom cupcakes for a work wedding shower:
Luckily, the other group of baked goods I've made have been fabulous, I just haven't had the time and motivation to sit down and write a post that does them justice. To come, I promise!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Silver Lounge Restaurant in Falmouth

Rich had eaten at the Silver Lounge Restaurant earlier in the week with Andrew and Andrea (apparently, I missed out on a good prime rib special) and enjoyed his meal, so he recommended it when we all wanted to grab a bite to eat.  The place was had the typical charming Cape Cod exterior with weathered shingles and was packed. So much so that I wanted to laugh at a lady that came in, requested a table for eight, and seemed utterly confused by the fact that she couldn't get seated with such a large group right away (mind you, without reservations).

We were told there would be a twenty minute wait, so we squeezed ourselves into their unique sitting area and decided to order some drinks from the bar:

The whole restaurant and even the waiting area featured marine props and decorations. I liked all the exposed wood and the nautical theme, it made the restaurant feel relaxed and casual (which it was):

Phu ordered a Dark and Stormy and I took the opportunity to try some of it because I've always been intrigued by the drink's description of dark rum and ginger beer. My reaction? Blech! Phu didn't seem to enjoy it much as well, I think because it was too strong? Chalk that up to "glad I didn't buy the whole drink to try it"!

I'm usually a beer drinking gal, but occasionally when I'm in the mood for wine, I go for a reisling and I'm always happy with the choice.

The minutes passed by pleasantly until we were seated at our table, which tucked into a little nook in the corner (surrounded with more charming decor):

I forgot to take a picture of the clam chowder that half the table ordered, which is unfortunate since it was by far the best item on the restaurant's menu! Our entrees were visually fun to look at, especially Amy's king crab legs, which everyone at the table compared to alien fingers. That didn't stop Amy from chomping away and from everyone else at the table from taking a bite:

Andrew and I both went for the surf and turf combo, and selected filet mignon and baked shrimp:

This entree pretty much summed up the experience of the restaurant. It was your typical American food/seafood combo and it was decent, while not anything special. Our "surf" portion of the meal only came with two shrimp that were baked into a pool of butter topped with a gooey coating - not sure why a whole casserole dish needed to be used for them! But over all, everyone seemed to like their food and I had no problems with the filet or the baked potato that accompanies every meal.

Overall, the atmosphere more than made up for any shortcomings in the food and I think it's a decent Cape Cod/touristy type of restaurant.