Sunday, October 31, 2010

Restaurant Review: Seoul Korean Restaurant

Between traveling and my monthly ethnic dining outings, I've tried a lot of different ethnic food. I had never tried Korean, however, until last week, when my girlfriends and I went to Seoul Korean Restaurant for our October ethnic dining outing. I had down some reading up on Korean food, and from seeing it on various food and travel TV shows, I was really looking forward to it.

The restaurant is a cute, little restaurant on Prospect Ave. on Milwaukee's east side. Our group of four sat in a little room sort of off on its own from the main dining room. While we were given individual menus, the entire menu was up on the wall next to our table, too.

Sun, a member of our ethnic dining group who has been to South Korea, had some suggestions and recommendations for us. One of them was jin man du, or steamed dumplings, which we had for an appetizer. They were really good. They were stuffed with veggies and tofu and came with a really tasty sauce.

With our meals, we all got a bowl of the soup of the day, which was a mostly broth soup with some radish and chunks of beef. It was basic, but really good.
The waiter also brought little bowls of items to share: kimchi with vegetables, kimchi with radish, seaweed, spinach and some kind of squid. Both kimchis were really good (the one with radish was a little spicier) and so was the spinach and seaweed. I liked the taste of the squid, but it was really chewy and sticky.

For our main dishes, Lisa got the job chae, which was pan broiled sweet potato noodles with vegetables (you can also get it with beef). It was really good (I had a bite!), but really didn't taste like sweet potatoes (maybe that was the point, for some reason?).

If memory serves me correct, Sun got the beef bul go ki, which is thinly sliced beef with vegetables marinated in Korean BBQ sauce. It came with huge leaves of lettuce with which to wrap the beef mixture. The taste was great, but some of the beef was a little gristly.

Leah and I both ordered the bibimbob (or bibimbap) ini a heated stone bowl. She got hers with tofu and I got mine with beef. In addition to the protein, each of the dishes came with rice, vegetables (all sorted individually) and an over-easy egg. We each also got our own bottle of hot sauce. Since it came in the stone bowl, the dish keeps cooking, and you're supposed to keep mixing everything together, with the sauce, to get everything coated and cooked. The meal was really, really good. The flavors were great and it was fun sort of mixing everything as we went along. There was a lot of food, too, so I finished the meal a few days later for lunch.
Before mixing:
After mixing:

All in all, it was a great experience, and I really enjoyed Korean food. There is plenty more I'd like to try on the menu, so I'm sure I'll be back!

Potato Leek Soup

We had some potatoes and leeks from our CSA box I wanted to use sooner than later, so I thought it might be a good time to make potato leek soup--with soda bread, of course. I also had a celeriac from the box, too, so I added that in.

I know we've made it before, but it might have been before I started blogging. If this sounds like a repeat, forgive me--I just can't find it!

I based the soup on a recipe from an Irish cookbook, Irish Food & Cooking, I picked up on sale at Border's a while ago. The recipe is for potato soup and I just added the leeks to it. Here's what I did:

Potato Leek Soup
-1/4 cup butter
-2 large leeks, thinly sliced
-1.5 lbs. potatoes, diced
-8 cups chicken broth
-1 celariac, peeled and chopped
-salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large, heavy pan and add leeks, turning to coat them in butter. Cover and leave to sweat over low heat.

Add potatoes and celeriac to the pan and mix well with the butter and leeks. Season with salt and pepper, cover and cook without coloring over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree soup in batches in the blender (I used an emulsion blender). Reheat over a low heat and adjust seasoning.

I actually made it Sunday afternoon and then we heated it up for dinner Monday. It just needs about 10-15 minutes on the stove to do so.

We served the soup with one of our favorite things: soda bread. We love this easy and healthy recipe for Brown Soda Bread from Cooking Light.

It appears I didn't take a picture of the finished product. I must have been too hungry! You can probably imagine what pureed potato leek soup looks like. :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Homemade Sloppy Joes

I've always loved sloppy Joes. It's something my mom made quite a bit while I was growing up, and I always looked forward to those meals. Nate and I used to make sloppy Joes with Manwich, most of the time. While I love the taste of Manwich, I'm getting more and more into making things from scratch. Plus, the last time we made Manwich, I looked at the ingredients and the list is VERY long and contained some not-so-great-for-you things.

So, on Sunday, we had some friends over for the Packers-Vikings game and made sloppy Joes from my favorite crock pot cookbook, Biggest Book of Slowcooker Recipes. The recipe was super easy and it didn't take much to put together. It turned out to be a little soupier (sloppier?) than we had thought, but it's sloppy Joes, so it wasn't too surprising.

Here is the recipe:
Sloppy Joes
-2.5 lbs. ground beef (I ended up with about 2.75 lbs.)
-1 medium onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1.25 cups ketchup
-1 medium green sweet pepper, chopped (I just used green bell pepper)
-2 stalks celery
-1/3 cup water
-3 tbs. each: brown sugar, prepared (yellow) mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce
-1 tbs. chili powder
-I also added about 10 mushrooms, sliced
-buns or however you want to serve it

In a large skillet, cook ground beef, onion and garlic until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.

In a slow cooker, combine all other ingredients (besides buns!). Stir in meat mixture.
Cover an cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours (we cooked on low for about 5.5 hours before turning to warm). Spoon into toasted buns.

In addition to the sloppy Joes, we made our signature sweet potato fries. Plus, with the rest of the cabbage I had left, made some simple coleslaw with carrots and slaw dressing.

Restaurant Review: Sake Tumi

On Friday, my friends Leah, Sun and I went to dinner at Sake Tumi. We chose Sake Tumi because it was one of the restaurants participating in Fox 6 Days of Dining, sort of like Milwaukee's annual downtown dining week.

Sake Tumi's menu was intriguing, and it was one of a few downtown restaurants convenient for all of us from work. I had been to Sake Tumi earlier in the year for downtown dining week, so I kind of knew what to except--great food and huge portions. This visit wasn't any different.

Leah and Sun started with spinach goma ae, boiled spinach served with sesame peanut sauce. I elected to have the edamame, complete with lots of salt. Both were really good. The bowl of edamame was HUGE! I ate a lot of it--which was OK since it was just edamame, but all that salt just about rubbed my lips raw!
For main meals, Sun got the bulgogi, grilled ribeye with onions, peppers and mushrooms. Her meal came with a small salad, rice and pot stickers, too.

Leah and I both got the sushi plate--eight rolls of different sushi (tuna and some kind of white fish) and three pieces of nigri--one with tuna, one with salmon and one with a whitefish. The sushi was really good--and SUPER filling.

For dessert, we had the choice between green tea ice cream (which Sun got) and mochi ice cream (which Leah and I got). The mochi ice cream was a ball of green tea ice cream surrounded by mochi, which is made from glutinous rice. There aren't many things I won't eat or make faces over eating, but I really did not enjoy this. The texture of the mochi was really weird--chewy and slimy. I couldn't finish it--that hasn't happened in a long time!

All in all, it was a great meal and great experience. There's a lot more I'd love to try on the Sake Tumi menu, especially the more Korean options.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homemade Egg Rolls and Stir Fry

By now you likely know we make a lot of stir fry. So that wasn't the most exciting part of this meal, although the sauce I whipped up was pretty good--and simple. Just some chunky peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil and mirin whisked together.

The more unusual part of the meal was the baked egg rolls we made. We used this recipe as a base.
We followed it pretty closely, but did a few things differently:
-Fresh bean sprouts, rather than canned.
-No water chestnuts.
-No chicken (I had never heard of chicken in an egg roll ...).
-Added cabbage, about 1.5 cups shredded.
-Instead of green onion, used yellow onion.

The recipe was pretty straight forward and easy to make. I think by using this recipe as your base, you could really experiment and make some pretty interesting egg rolls.

We served the egg rolls with soy sauce and that was it. They were good. I think next time I'd like to try including pork or shrimp. They were good heated up, too, particularly warmed up in the toaster oven.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Crazy

I absolutely love this time of the year, because I love anything with pumpkin--pie, cupcakes, bread, pancakes, beer ... Sunday was a day full of baking pumpkin recipes.

For breakfast, Nate and I made pumpkin pancakes. We cheated a bit, and used a Wildtree pancake mix I had picked up at a Wildtree party quite a while ago. We had made them last year, and they turned out really well.

We decided to make the entire box (three batches) and just freeze what we didn't eat. They're super easy to make: just add oil, eggs and milk. I'd love to make pumpkin pancakes from scratch sometime.

Additionally, on Sunday afternoon, I made pumpkin bread from this Cooking Light recipe I used a few times last year. It's a great recipe, really easy and turns out great--if you follow the recipe exactly.

I was on a roll cooking and baking Sunday. We had made the pancakes, and I threw this bread recipe together, I made artichoke dip, hummus and had applesauce cooking in the crock pot. I must have gotten ahead of myself ...

I took the bread out after an hour, like the recipe called for, and checked it with a toothpick.
It was nowhere near done, so I put it in for another 20 minutes thinking that's all the time it needed. I let the bread cool, and when I cut into it, it was obviously not cooked all the way through and still looked more moist than it should.
Not knowing what to do, I put the bread back in the oven for 20 more minutes. I figured that would have to do it. The bread looked OK, but it still didn't look right. I couldn't figure out what went wrong, especially because I had made it numerous times.

A few hours later, I was glancing at the recipe again, and noticed I, for whatever reason, added 2 cans of pumpkin when the recipe calls for 1. Whoops!! Clearly, 2 cans were too much. Note to self: read the directions twice next time before starting. :)

Making Empanadas

I'm not quite sure how I came across it, but I found this gal's food blog, What's Cooking Chicago, about a week ago. There's lots of great stuff on here, but one thing in particular caught my eye: empanadas. I've always loved empanadas, but I've never made them, mostly because they seemed like a lot of work.

On Joelen's blog, however, I realized empanada making was made easy by pre-made dough rounds. The day I saw the blog post, I happened to be going to a local Mexican grocery store, El Rey, and knew I could find them there. I was right!

Last Friday, Nate and I decided to make them. We followed Joelen's recipe fairly closely, except that we added some spice: a jalapeno and a habanero. Also, we didn't add the chicken broth. I thought it might make it too soupy, making it hard to make the dough pockets. Otherwise, everything was the same. However, we seemed to have extra stuffing, even though we rolled out the dough rounds a bit.
We used up all the dough and still had beef and veggies left over. We put them in a Tupperware and will use them to make tacos tomorrow night.

The empanadas were super, super good. Even though they were baked, they were still crispy. The only thing I would change for this particular recipe is to add more cheese, or small chunks of cheese. You couldn't really taste the shredded cheese. I think chunks would work better.

When we make these again, I think it'd be fun to make up whatever you want for the stuffing. You could make them veggie with peppers and beans, or, like I've had at restaurants, with spinach and cheese. You could really do just about anything with them!

For a side, we mixed it up a bit and made baked plantains using this recipe. They turned out pretty good and tasted good, but I don't think they were quite as ripe as they should have been for the recipe.
However, I would definitely make plantains again. This was our first time using them, and I'd love to try different recipes.
We made some guacamole to snack on while we cooked, too, and topped the empanadas with the guac.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chicken & Leek Linguine

This was another meal out of the October issue of Cooking Light. I picked it mostly because we had gotten some leeks from the CSA box, and I had to figure out what to do with them.

Here is the recipe. It was a pretty simple, quick dish to make, although it took some juggling. While I think I'm a pretty decent cook, I still sometimes struggle with trying to get different elements of the meal finished at the same time. For example, the linguine was done WAY before everything else was. It still tasted OK, but I need to get better about timing things.
Anyway, we followed the recipe pretty much as it is, except I didn't use parsley. It was good.

For a side, we had some broccoli, also from the CSA box, to use up. Nate doesn't like broccoli just plain, so I knew I needed to flavor it up somehow. I remembered a recipe in my Betty Crocker Cookbook for sesame buttered broccoli. I halved the recipe since we didn't have too much broccoli. It was good, except I overcooked the broccoli a bit (that's another thing I have to work on ...) and didn't drain out enough water, so it wasn't quite as flavorful as it should have been.

But all in all, it was a very good meal!

Rapid Restaurant Reviews: Dockside and Ryan Braun's

I recently went out to lunch at two places I had never eaten at. Both had really good food and each was a good experience.

We (me and Nate, as well as our friends Craig and Ann) stopped at Dockside, in Mukwonago on Lake Beulah, Sunday afternoon, after spending some time at Elegant Farmer. Nate and I had been there before with my parents for a drink, but we had never eaten there. Some of us started with some huge bloody Marys, which were pretty good.

I had a mushroom Swiss burger for my meal, which came with fresh, homemade French fries. The burger was fantastic. It was huge, had great flavor and was on a great (huge!) chunk of bread.

I didn't try anyone else's meals--Nate and Craig got burgers and Ann got a reuben--but everyone enjoyed their meals. Everyone's sandwich was HUGE!

Then this past Tuesday, I dined at Ryan Braun's Waterfront with some co-workers. There weren't many people there (many just two or three other tables at noon) and while I had heard good things about the place, I wasn't quite sure what the experience would be like. I was pleasantly surprised that we had a very good meal and the service was great.

We were presented with a bread basket (some kind of rosemary bread, I think?) and some sun-dried tomato butter and a side of mixed veggies with some oil or something ... Whatever it was, it was very good.

I ordered the portabella sandwich, which was a grilled mushroom with mozzarella, spinach, roasted peppers and tomatoes. For my side, while the sweet potato fries and garlic Parmesan fries looked great, I got the dipping vegetables with bruschetta ranch sauce. Everything was very good.

Restaurant Review: La Fuente "Dos"

I've been waiting with anticipation for the opening of the second location of La Fuente, a pretty darn popular Mexican restaurant on Milwaukee's south side. While La Fuente is by far not my favorite Mexican restaurant in Milwaukee (I think there are much better restaurants with better atmosphere and better food, including Cempazuchi, Riviera Maya and El Senorial, to name a few), I was excited to see it go in on 92nd and Blue Mound because a. it replaced Monreal's, where I had the worst Mexican meal I've ever had and was just an overall odd place, and b. it's pretty much in my backyard, meaning there is finally somewhere to walk to!

Monreal's closed sometime in the spring, and they've been working on La Fuente since June. It finally opened this last week on Oct. 12. I had already had plans to go out to dinner that night with Jeanne, a friend and former co-worker. She's always down for Mexican food, so we decided to change our plans and head to La Fuente instead.

We originally sat inside, in one of the three big dining rooms, but it was really warm in there and there was nobody else in the section of the dining room we were in, so it was a bit awkward. So we moved outside, where we had thought about sitting anyway. There are about 10 tables outside, and while you're really just sitting in the parking lot, it's still nice to be outside at any restaurant.

We started with the obligatory chips and salsa, and I was pleasantly surprised the salsa was really tasty and moderately spicy. We also got a small (which was mistake--we ended up getting another small one not too much later!) order of guacamole, which was good. We also each had a margarita--I had a original on the rocks and Jeanne had a blended strawberry. Both were good and hit the spot!

I'm almost positive our meals were just right out of the original restaurant. It will be interesting to see if they'll have a slightly different menu at the west side location. It would be nice if they did.

For our meals, Jeanne got the "chunky" beef taco plate. She said it was good.

I got one of the specials (I think that's what it was--it was on a different page of the menu and I don't see it on their online menu). It was tacos al pastor: pork tacos on corn tortillas with a "spicy" pineapple sauce, onions and cilantro. While it wasn't spicy at all, the flavor was very good. We asked the waiter for hot sauce to spice things up. At first, he looked surprised that we wanted something hotter than the salsa, and then he was all smiles about it! Unfortunately, the hot sauce didn't have much flavor--it had a kick to it, but that's about it. Combined with the salsa, however, it was good and worked for the meals.

Neither of our meals came with rice and beans, but really, we had more than enough food.
Service was good, and our waiter came out many times to see if we needed anything, refill water and, of course, get us more guac.

All in all, it was a good experience. I'll definitely still frequent other Mexican restaurants in town, but, like I said before, it's nice to finally have a place to walk to grab dinner or a cerveza ... or two ... or three ...