Friday, February 15, 2008

Lan Dee

It is a Chinese tradition to gather with family & relatives before the 15th of the New Year (Chinese calendar). Thus, my parents invited hubby's parents to Lisle, IL for a nice Chinese meal. Lan Dee Restaurant used to be THE go-to place back in the day before it closed down. In the recent years, a bunch of investors took over the Grand Mandarin space, named it Lan Dee, and hired the chef/owner from the old Lan Dee to manage the restaurant and overlook the menu.

The food here is quite delicious, especially since it's such a rarity to find food closer towards the Taiwanese style that I deeply love. Unfortunately, the restaurant's a mess because of the varied opinions of investors. In addition, these dishes use quality ingredients and time/effort-consuming skills, so they're pricier than the typical Chinese-restaurant food. I think they need to revamp the space, at least get nicer plating, glasses, and improve the ambiance to match the price of these quality dishes. Sadly, I'm not sure how much longer this place will last, but here's a review of the delicious dishes we had...

Teasers - pickled radish/carrots, and peanuts/jalepeno pappers/dried fish stir-fried
Both are typical Taiwanese munchies, esp. with drinking -- authentic and delicious, especially with our Scotch (1st time we had the Crown Royal Special Reserve -- quite smooth).

综合生鱼片 (zong he sheng yu pian) - Sashimi Combination (not pictured) -- typical Chicagoland area sashimi. I think the chef added this only because my hub's family's Japanese.

烤文蛤 (kao wen he) - Baked Clam - chef's new creation - he blended clams with fish egg, scallops, shrimp in a creamy sauce, put it back into the shell and baked it. crispy top, slightly spicy creamy center.

海鲜跳墙 (hai xian fe tiao chiang) - Seafood 'Buddah Jumps-Over the Wall"
This dish originated from Fuzhou. There are many stories of how this dish came about, one of which my dad talks about: Several beggers collected the food given to them, put it into a pot and boiled it with what they had. The attractive smell of the food spread in the air all the way to a nearby temple. It was so inviting that the monks, who were supposed to be vegetarians, jumped over the temple wall and wanted to eat it. There's a poem that reads, "Even Buddha himself would jump the wall to come over." Hence the name of the dish.

There are more than 20 ingredients, such as chicken, duck, pig's trotters and mutton, stewed over a low fire with a jar for holding Shaoxing wine. These days, chefs put more expensive items into the pot -- ours being seafood, he included abalone, shark fin, scallops, etc... VERY delicious stew that's highly flavorful, I can eat this over and over... here's the pot it came in:
Main Courses:

蛋黄大蟹 (dan huang da xie) - Yolk-fried Dungeness Crab -- one of my favorite dishes (even though it's probably not the healthiest) -- Lan Dee has their own crab tank, so these crabs are very fresh. Tender, sweet, plump meat under the crispy egg yolk batter -- I love eating this with cilantro, and even chowing down on the fresh cut lettuce with egg yolk/oil drippings.

鲍鱼扣瑶柱 (bao yu kou yao zhu) - Abalone and Dried Scallop with bok choy, carrots, chinese ham in what tastes like a chicken based broth. Saltiness of the ham and broth brought out the flavors of the abalone and bok choy -- very delicious.

红烧蹄膀 (hong shao ti pang) - Braised Pork Thigh
This is another traditional Chinese dish using soy sauce base that requires hours of simmering to achieve melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. I really loved this dish, it was cooked very well-- the perfect blend of fat and meat with oozing juicy broth was PERFECT with a bite (or two) of chewy white rice. The bamboo shoots at the bottom was also very flavorful, slightly sticky from the fattiness of the meat.

酱烤鳕鱼 (jiang kao xue yu) - Baked Black Cod (aka (Sablefish, Butterfish, Skilfish) in Miso Marinade. I didn't get a picture of this but it's a crispy top, moist/silky center with intense miso flavor. Squeeze of lemon juice on top brought out the flavor of the fish.

Chinese Vegetable boiled with salty fish -- nothing exceptional, but delicious and fresh nonetheless

烤鳗鱼米糕 (kao man yu mi gao) - Baked Sea Eel (unagi) on a bed of sweet rice
Very delicious dish that my mother in law LOVED. Sweet rice was made with taro, shitake, just enough stickiness while keeping the consistency of each grain separated.

芋泥酥饼 (yu ni su bing) - Crispy Biscuit with Taro Paste Center -- steamy taro paste wasn't too sweet, biscuit was perfectly crispy.. very nice dessert that I always look forward to especially because it's always fresh from the oven (i LOVE taro)

水果盘 (shui guo pan) - Fruit Plate

The food total came up to be $300, including tax/tip without drinks (we brought our own), it's about $50-$55 per person (7 of us), which is a higher price tag than typical Chinese places. But if you think about all the seafood, it's totally worthwhile...especially since you can't get these at other restaurants in Chicago. We were so stuffed from this on Friday night that my hub and I didn't eat anything until 8pm the next day...

Valentine's Day Dessert

I absolutely despised how far west my work is located until I started to discover delicious places such as a little cafe called Cocoa Bean.

The first time I was introduced to their dessert was when my friend G brought back a little cake after taking my coworkers out to eat (it was my birthday). I was pleasantly surprised by both the cake and the thoughtful gesture. Their little desserts are creatively fancy and deliciously moist. I'm a bigger fan of the japanese-style melt-in-your-mouth desserts than the thicker western-style desserts. The cakes at Cocoa Bean fit my criteria, so I had to return for some dessert in time for V day.

They package their desserts in a nice little box:

For V day, I chose their Frangipan Individual- Seasonal fruit (pear in our case) baked in almond filling. Fresh, the right amount of sweetness, crust was chewy and crumbly. I also got their Mirabella Individual- White chocolate lemon mousse with alternating layers of vanilla crème brûlée with white cake. The lemon mousse was lightly tarted, providing a nice contrast to the sweet crème brûlée. ($3.95/piece)

After a little research on this place, I found out they're famous for making one of the best croissants in Chicagoland. I bought two for my friend, and two for my mom--they both thought it was delicious, so I have yet to try them one day. My brother and I had their paninis for lunch and I absolutely adored them...will have to return and take pix for another post.

Best Ribs I've EVER Tasted (much better than anything at Naperville Ribfest!)

I remember that special night 5 years ago, when I channel-surfed at my mom's house and discovered a treasure... review on Corky's BBQ of Memphis, TN. Phrases such as "uses top choice meats", "cooked in low temperatures for 7 hours", and "fall off the bone tenderness" caught my attention, and I placed an order on immediately.

Corky's ribs exceeded my expectations, and I couldn't stop raving about them ever since.

They're super simple to heat up, but you MUST watch the clock. My mom tends to put it in the oven and forget about it, resulting in much tougher ribs (aka a waste of my money).

They come in individual boxes. Defrost them overnight (no more than 24 hours), take it out of the plastic bag, and smother their perfectly sweet & tangy sauce onto the luscious ribs:

After 35-40 mins in 350 degrees preheated oven, delightful, mouth-watering ribs await your attack:

Knives are not needed -- stick a fork b/w the bones and be astonished by the tenderness of the meat...

Add some baked beans, mac n cheese, salad, and/or veggies and you got yourself a Southern Meal! (My baked beans last night was simple and tasty -- sauté garlic, onions, canadian bacon (a lower fat option)...add tomato sauce, dark beer, balsamic vinegar, salt/pepper, brown sugar, and dijon mustard...mix in drained beans, and bake for 15 minutes (depending on how soft you want your beans).

Their cheapest package:
Ribs Ribs Ribs $81.99 - 2 Slabs of Ribs, 1 Bottle Bar-B-Que Sauce, 1 Bottle Rib Seasoning
Price includes FedEx 2-day delivery
Additional Slab: $18.99 (you cannot purchase by slabs, can only add on to packages)

Tip: If you are not in a hurry to try out these ribs, sign up for their mailing list, and wait for their special deals. I believe it's 2-3 times a year (around the holidays, of course) when they'd email coupon codes for free slabs with package orders.

Upcoming Posts: v-day dessert from Cocoa Bean in Geneva, IL and family dinner at Landee Restaurant in Lisle, IL.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

So it Begins...

My first entry of my new blog, dedicated to my passion (aside from my husband) ... food. How appropriate this blog is created on Valentine's Day, the day for love! I never considered myself a particular level of 'foodie' (definition on wiki: obsessively interested in all things culinary), I am simply one that's obsessively passionate about that pleasurable sensation at the tip of my tongue when the perfect blend of ingredients and texture is placed into my mouth. That is the moment a tear falls in appreciation, acknowledging the greatness of its creator.

Whether 1 person reads this blog, or 10,000... it's a place for me to share and save my good/bad experiences... at a stand, a restaurant, my home, my mom's (one of my top fave chefs, of course) or wherever. I intend on taking more photos, retrieving more info, to have as complete of an online scrapbook as possible. I am excited.

To New Beginnings!!