It all started with Beaujolais 都是薄酒來惹的禍

It all started with Beaujolais.

薄酒萊趴 - 故事就是這樣開始的。

Since so many friends liked the food at my housewarming in April 2006, I used the November 2006 Beaujolais global release as an excuse to host another wine party at home. The party became "sort of" annual in 2007, and each one got bigger and better, so big that I had to start hosting at wine stores. Work got a little too hectic in 2009 and 2010, so I couldn't squeeze time to continue the annual event (except the 2009 Xmas party at our new condo). Also, another big reason is I wanted to look for a "more formal" location, because I usually have a semi-formal dress code, and dressed up people and laid back atmosphere just...don't mix well.

When Rena found the MoonWine wine store on Facebook in March, I knew this would be the place we would have the next party. The owner Daniel is super awesome, so after a quick visit to the store, we were all set for the party in May. I wasn't sure how many people could fit into the store, so I was trying to limit to about 50 guests for this "trial run."

Party Menu 28 May 2011:

Hors D'oeuvre

Flame Broiled Salmon 
with Wasabi Mayo, Salmon Roe, Slice of Lemon & Dill
炙燒鮭魚佐山葵美乃茲, 搭配鮭魚卵, 檸檬片

Filet Mignon
with Asian Mango Mint Salsa

Lemon Chicken with Pesto & Tomato

Roasted Bell Pepper

Mozzarella & Local Cherry Tomato
馬茲拉乳酪 & 聖女番茄

Prosciutto & Local Cantaloupe
帕瑪火腿 & 哈密瓜

Butter Sauteed Mushrooms

Thai Lemongrass Curry Shrimp

Hot Plate
Grilled Australian Grain-fed Ribeye

For party food, I usually try to go above chips and Ritz just so the wines would be paired in different ways -- makes the drinking experience much more interesting. I prepared hors d'oeuvres for 45 people (gosh that was tiring), with some good helping hands from guests, of course. MoonWine doesn't have a kitchen, but Daniel purchased a new high-end BBQ grill just in time before the party, so I grilled steaks live to go with the red wines - that was a high point of the evening for sure.

Thanks to all the guests who joined us that evening! The next gathering is scheduled for Aug. 27, 2010, less dressy, more summer (whatever that means - use your imagination).

Steaks happily grilling away...

I found these black plastic containers near Dee Hua Street (迪化街), thanks to Apple.

Steaks and red wine are buddies.


Date: 2011.5.28


Steak Only or Surf & Turf 單吃牛排還是來個海陸

After skipping two years, I "resumed" our annual wine party two weeks ago. For everyone who got a few slices of the barbecue grilled ribeye, the consensus was "not enough!" Soon after the party, our new skier friends started this whole steak dinner discussion on Facebook. I was heading out to the Bay Area for a short business trip the following week, so I thought I better have another dinner-at-home gathering soon so we all didn't have to wait too long for big juicy chunks of steak. Now, should we do steak only or surf & turf? Surf and turf of course! What kind of surf? Big prawns or lobster? I thought I'd make up my mind at the market. Guess what? They had fresh small spiny lobsters for US$5 each! Bin Jiang market (濱江市場) is sort of a whole-sale traditional market in Taipei (huge place!), and is where you can find some of the best produce, meat, and seafood in Taipei. Boy this dinner quickly got upgraded big time. Thinking the lobster would be worthy of having its own course, I also decided to throw in risotto, another "component" I've never cooked before. Having lobster and steak separate made it easier for wine-paring anyway, as I found out in the last dinner that these good friends LOVE WINE.

Dinner Menu 11 June 2011:

Orange Teriyaki Seared Tuna
served with yamaimo and asparagus 附山藥 蘆筍

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio 2009
Banrock Station Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot

Seafood Course
Lobster in Garlic Butter
set on mushroom risotto  蘑菇義式燉飯

Perelada Cava 西班牙香檳 (from MoonWine Wine Shop)

Meat Course
Australian Ribeye with Red Wine Jus
truffle mashed baby red skin potatoes and sauteed mushrooms
搭配松露紅馬鈴薯泥 煎鴻禧菇

Kendall Jackson 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
Don David Malbec 2009

Baked Caramel Apple Puff Pastry
with vanilla ice cream 佐香草冰淇淋

    This seared tuna appetizer is something I've wanted to cook again for a long time. I've had good seared tuna in the US, but haven't found anything good in local restaurants here in Taipei. I found a few recipes online and combined the best parts of them to my own liking. The marinade actually has orange juice, yes, orange juice. Raw tuna maguro, unless extremely fresh, doesn't have much taste (of course, toro or tuna belly is whole different ball game). By searing the outside with high heat, the sugar is slightly caramelized and brings much more aroma to the tuna. Mixed with the orange teriyaki sauce, ginger, wasabi, and scallions, this dish packs plenty of punch to the taste buds. Pinot Grigio was a little too light to counter the rich Asian flavors, so we quickly corrected that with a sparkling Chardonnay Pinot (like, not a problem at all when someone screams "drink up we gotta switch wine!"). This was also the first time I used sliced asparagus in a dish, as I think it's a visually-pleasing way of presenting asparagus, with greening outline on the edge of the white slices.

    Yes, I've always thought about making risotto, but never got around to it. A college buddy was so proud when he found out he cooked risotto before I did! With a box of Italian Riso Scotti risotto rice in my pantry and vague memories of chefs making risotto on TV (and horror stories of over-cooking it into porridge), I went for the "challenge" and was really mentally prepared to fail miserably. "If it's bad, I just won't serve it right?" I thought. As it turned out, it wasn't that difficult after all -- slowly ladling stock in, constant stirring, and frequent tasting did the job. I was even able to maintain a bit of bite in the rice core, not bad for first time! Now onto the lobster. I've made grilled and roasted lobsters tons of times before, but I've always used Maine lobsters (with claws). This is the first time I'm working with spiny lobster. I'm a big opponent of boiling lobsters, because I think some of precious juice is lost during the process (probably just a personal myth). Borrowing a cooking method of an Australian lobster farmer I saw on TV, I split the lobsters in half, and seasoned the lobsters in salt and pepper, and sauteed with med-low heat in olive oil and butter mixture, adding garlic and fresh parsley about mid way through the 8-minute cooking process. The result was a wow'ing succulent, sweet, and tender lobster. I know I'm biased because I cooked it, but man I ended up eating the lobster so slowly, enjoying every bite in my mouth. We paired this course with Spanish Cava semi-seco, a good balance of delicate savory flavors and sweetness of the wine.

    Since I had "surf & turf" in my mind, I started Googling for surf & turf plating ideas during the week. Boy there were some ugly plating pictures. Let's say I was quite relieved to separate the lobster from the steak. There're also quite a few ways to present steak, but I think I like the ones that clearly show the medium-rare color of the beef. What sides should go with the beef? Since I was going high-end with lobster already, I thought truffle baby red skin mashed potatoes would be a winner. Baby red skin potatoes have a natural creamy, silkiness texture that, in my opinion, is much better than good old Idaho potatoes. I used to add truffle oil directly into the big pot of mash, but not anymore. I think you taste much more truffle if you drip it on top of the mash in your plate - simply sends sensory systems through the roof. I also had creamed spinach in the plan, but that turned out to be a total disaster, so the sauteed mushrooms was a last-minute swap-out. Last but definitely not least, let's talk about the red wine jus now. To me, the jus was what MADE the dish. I used to cheat and do a bunch of ad-hoc methods to make the steak sauce, with inconsistent successes. I wanted to make sure this steak dish is really steak-house / bistro quality, so I followed the Bouchon red wine jus recipe to the T. Basically, the sauce consisted of standard mirepoix, mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf, half bottle of red wine, and beef stock, reduced and strained through cheese cloth. Gosh the sauce really elevated the Australian grain-fed ribeye at so many different levels. At that instant, I wasn't missing US beef that much (though I still prefer it). On top of all this, I had a creme brulee torch gun for everyone to char up the ribeye fat on the table, talk about entertaining! This was definitely one of the best dishes ever coming out of our kitchen.

    Sometimes, I amaze myself with the number of decisions made and problems encountered during the course of preparing a dinner. It's all good, love every second of it.

    Dessert has never been my forte. I found a bakery supplier in our neighborhood recently, a store that sells supplies to the bread and cake shops in the city. Simply out of curiosity, I bought some frozen puff pastry without any idea of how I'd use it. What I had in mind for tonight's dessert was an upside down caramel apple pie, but wasn't quite sure if I could do it with puff pastry. I didn't want to do caramel apple without the pastry, so I went for the apple and puff pastry combo without knowing what would happen. The steps were: cut up the golden delicious, stirred into caramel (didn't get as brown as I'd like), put into baking pan, laid pastry over, and baked for 20 minutes - pretty straight forward and simple dessert. Ice cream melting on warm fruit is an formula to make people happy.

    This was one of the best dinners I've cooked in the past few years. I don't want these skier friends to get used to this, because heck the next dinner might get a hiccup or two (or a complete disaster). Alright folks, I'll strive for perfection! Thanks all for another fantastic evening, and all your kind compliments on the food!

    Date: 2011.6.11


    A Happy Bunch of Guinea Pigs 開心的白老鼠

    Neither Rena nor I have been on the ski slopes for many years after moving back to Taiwan. In March, we finally made it to a ski resort in central Japan. (we missed the quake by two days) So, we skied with these "people" for three days, but didn't really get to know each other until we landed back in Taipei. Somehow, chitchat topics shifted to food and restaurant discussions, and people's face LIT UP. Anyway, a few new Facebook friends were added at the luggage pickup. In early April, I asked if anyone is interested in being guinea pigs (天竺鼠, "白老鼠" 的意思) for my new cooking class recipe, and voila all these people showed up at our house for dinner. "You cook, and we'll pay for ingredients." Sure sounded like a good deal to me.

    我和 Rena 在搬回台灣後都沒有再去滑雪過。三月時,我們終於跟到了一個滑雪團去了日本苗場, (好險沒遇到 311) 和一群同學們滑了三天,但三天都沒有好好認識新朋友。反而是飛機降落後在機艙內談到美食,突然大家就熟起來了,在等行李時大夥兒很快互相交換了 FB 的帳號。四月初, 因為料理課的新菜單需要做些練習,我隨興問了有誰有興趣當白老鼠,試試我的新菜單,很迅速的就邀到六個滑雪的朋友,"你負責料理,我們付食材",那有甚麼問題!

    Dinner Menu for 30 Apr. 2011:

    • Appetizer:
      Seared Scallop Arugula Salad
      Orange & Balsamic Vinaigrette
      香煎干貝芝麻葉沙拉, 配香橙 & 巴薩米克油醋
    • Main Course:
      One-sided Seared Salmon
      Leeks with Beurre Blanc
      生煎鮭魚 佐甜蔥 & 法式奶油醬汁
    • Dessert:
      Crepes with Fresh Fruit & Vanilla Ice Cream
      Nutella Filling and Raspberry Syrup
      法式可麗餅, 搭配新鮮水果, 榛果巧克力醬 & 覆盆子糖漿

    I've made scallops a few times before, but can't say I got it down to repeatable steps. Since I am going to be teaching this to students, I've referenced a few more recipes, even videos from Gordan Ramsay and Ming Tsai. The key is really high quality scallops patted dry and hot skillet. Rena and I both love Arugula, and so I wanted to include that in the dish. Last year, I found a herb supplier in a local traditional market, so I no longer buy my herbs from over-priced high-end super markets. (gosh I really hated paying US$3 for a small bunch of chives) The scallops I used were the frozen packs from Costco, originated in Nantucket or somewhere in New England. Because of all the homework I did, this appetizer turned out well tonight, better than the scallops we had at Jean Georges Shanghai. Definitely ready

    之前有做過幾次煎干貝,但都沒有把步驟熟練。既然這次是要教學生,我上網參考了幾個不同的食譜,也參考了地獄廚房主廚 Gordan Ramsay 的 Youtube 影片。看來訣竅是要用高品質的干貝,下鍋前先充分擦乾,還有無敵熱的平底鍋。我和 Rena 都很喜歡芝麻葉,於是也想把芝麻葉包含到課程內,台灣最近有蠻多供應商的,像我在濱江市場就找到了一個攤子,是專門供應台北高檔西餐廳的,各式香草西式蔬菜應有盡有,我終於不用再去微風或 Jason's 花冤枉錢。干貝是 Costco 賣的美國冷凍干貝,size 夠大品質也很好。因為有做功課,今晚的干貝前菜算很成功,比我們在上海 Jean Georges 吃到的還棒。

    When we were renovating our house, our designer installed black glass wall in the kitchen. Glass in the kitchen not only makes it easy to clean, but also allows me to use florescent markers to write my menu du jour -- really just more fun for guests in the whole dine-at-home experience. (a must photo-shoot spot)


    This salmon recipe was stolen from Michelin-starred Chef Thomas Keller's Bouchon cookbook (though I never saw it on the menu the two times I visited the restaurant). I make this dish for guests from time to time, and I'd say most sashimi eaters just love the dish as it brings you several textures all in one bite. The bottom is a crispy layer with lots of caramelization flavors, the cooked flesh brings a silky bite to the palate, and the raw part simply melts in the mouth. I highly recommend this cooking method if you can get your hands on super fresh salmon. I also wanted to include this dish for my cooking class because it uses beurre blanc, a classic French butter sauce for fish. Beurre blanc just works awesome with salmon.

    這個鮭魚食譜是來自於米其林星級主廚 Thomas Keller 的 Bouchon 餐廳 (雖然去了兩次 Bouchon 都沒在菜單上看到),我久久會做一次這道菜,而且通常會為喜愛生魚片的朋友們帶來驚喜,因為這種煎法會讓鮭魚有很多層次。鮭魚的底部微焦,中間煮熟的肉因鮭魚的油脂非常的多汁鮮嫩,但生的部分反而會在嘴巴中融化。如果可以買到新鮮的鮭魚,我個人建議可以試試這個煮法。另一個挑選這道菜的原因是法式奶油醬 beurre blanc,是個很經典的法式醬汁,再搭配上鮭魚是個很不錯的組合。

    My cooking class is centered around French cuisine, so crepe was a good choice for the dessert dish. I've tried a number of different recipes from the Web and cookbooks, but none of them yielded the fluffy texture of the crepes from creperies in Paris. This one day, I tried Thomas Keller's recipe, also from the Bouchon cookbook, and man this was it! The secret ingredient is heavy cream, which adds another depth into the flavor spectrum. Also, anyone who's been to a creperie knows there's probably a thousand ways you can dress a crepe. I personally like ice cream and a tangy sauce...or banana and Nutella...or simple lemon juice and powder sugar. You get the idea. There's also a ton of savory crepe recipes out there, but I'll have to get to them one of these days.

    既然料理課叫做"餐桌上的法式香頌",可麗餅當然成為甜點的不二選擇。之前有試過幾個不同的可麗餅食譜,但都無法做出我在巴黎吃到可麗餅的那種鬆軟口感。有天試了我的食譜聖經 Bouchon Cookbook 裡的可麗餅食譜,終於找到了! 讓可麗餅鬆軟的秘密武器是生奶油 (whipping cream),也讓看似平凡的餅皮增添了許多香味。去過可麗餅屋的人都知道這東西大概有一千種吃法,我通常喜歡餅上面加冰淇淋和偏酸的糖漿...或香蕉和 Nutella...或簡單的檸檬汁和糖霜。真的是很多種 XD 另外,鹹的可麗餅的吃法也很多種,來慢慢排進我的 to-cook 清單吧...

    Thanks to my new batch of culinary lab rats -- hope you guys enjoyed the food and wine!
    感謝各位料理白老鼠捧場 -- 希望大家都吃得喝得很開心! (算見識到你們葡萄酒的海量...)


    Date: 2011.4.30