Where we eat: China Yuan strip malled by Wild Nothing

Where we eat: China Yuan strip malled by Wild Nothing

About a year ago my friends RB and EVB asked J-Fur and I to join them at China Yuan for dim sum. My reaction was predictable considering my experience with Chinese food consisted of take out fried rice in an interesting little box and fortune cookies. Outside I agreed and stated that it sounded like fun while inside I wondered what the heck dim sum was and why I had never heard it before.

Dim Sum, for those of you that are in the same boat as I was, is a Cantonese term that describes small portions of Chinese dishes. Usually these dishes are served on a small plate or in a steamer basket. China Yuan’s dim sum is served on Sunday afternoons and includes forty-two different options. RB and EVB, who are connoisseurs when it comes to Chinese food, will tell you that there are a handful of these forty-two options that are amazingly good, some of the best in Tampa. For me, there really is only one, the pineapple buns. But those buns are enough to make me return to the tiny little strip mall, where China Yuan is located, again and again.

What is so good about these buns? It is the softness of the outside and the sweet pineapple filling on the inside (a filling that defies Chinese tradition) that make these buns the stuff that dreams are made of.

Don’t get me wrong, China Yuan is more than pineapple buns and dim sum. The restaurant makes an amazing salt and pepper tofu and their garlic bean curd is pretty good too. I’ve heard wondrous things about their snow pea tips (which are always out when we try to order them) and am able to enjoy the vegetable spring rolls and bean curd rolls on the appetizer menu. But what sets China Yuan apart from other good Chinese restaurants (I’m looking at you Yummy House) is their buns.

Running in my dreams right alongside China Yuan’s pineapple buns was “Chinatown” by Wild Nothing. The song is the perfect blend of pop, dreams, and stowing away on a train to escape your past. “Chinatown” is on Wild Nothing’s new album, Gemini. You can purchase it here.

As seen on: China Yuan on Urbanspoon

China Yuan Restaurant on Foodio54

Rolled Pizza, Matt and Kim and the Hot Toddies

Rolled Pizza, Matt and Kim and the Hot Toddies

Rolled pizza always made sense to me, that’s how my grandfather used to eat it. He’d grab a slice, fold it in half and treat it like a calzone or turnover. It made for a neat little grease tunnel that exited right down his chin and onto his hands.

Inspired by this memory, hot pockets and empanadas that I made a few weeks ago, I decided to create my own version of rolled pizza using a crust recipe that I came across in a Mark Bittman cookbook (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian). Here’s how it happened:

Rolled Pizza
For the Crust:
-2 cups flour
-1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
-1/2 cup cold water
-1 tsp. salt
-1/2 cup vegan shortening
-1 Tbsp. roasted garlicFor the filling:
-1 cup marinara sauce
-1/2 bag vegetarian burger crumbles
-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
-1/4 cup of Parmesan
-fresh basil

1. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a food processor for about five seconds. Keep the machine running while adding shortening and garlic. Process for ten seconds. With the machine still running, add cold water (the dough should be fairly dry, don’t add too much water). At this point begin forming the dough into a ball. Knead it by hand until smooth.2. Divide the dough into 10 pieces, roll into balls, and cover with a damp paper towel. Let dough sit for twenty minutes.3. Flour a work surface and roll dough out until it is very thin* and circular.4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix the Parmesan, Mozzarella, marinara sauce, crumbles and basil together. Spoon mixture into the center of each circle. Fold each circle over. You can seal the pizzas with water and a fork (although I didn’t do this). Put the pizzas on an ungreased baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes.

*I suggest rolling this dough out as thin as possible. When I did it the first time, I left the dough a little to thick and it thickened even more during the cooking process. This created a very dry casing for my pizzas.

I’ve been rolling my pizzas recently to the sounds of Matt and Kim’s song “Daylight.” J-Fur turned me on to these guys by constantly playing the song in her car. Now I do the same in my own. Matt and Kim will be touring it up in the Fall (including a date in St. Pete). Can’t wait to see this live!

Daylight by mattandkim

I’ve also been enjoying the Hot Toddies “Keep on Runnin’ (The Vampire Song).” The bands sweet, beepy, infectious, bubblegum pop comes full throttle during this track. It comes from their debut album, due out next month on Asian Man Records. You can preview this track, and more from the album, at the Hot Toddies website. Also check them on Facebook, reverb nation, or Myspace.

One last note, this is not the way to roll. Sorry, had to do it.

Whoopies Pies and Stars: Responses to a Bet

Whoopies Pies and Stars: Responses to a Bet

Keeping in the time honored tradition of mayoral betting on sporting events with food (here is an article detailing the wager from the Stanley Cup Finals this year) I mentioned previously that my friend BH and I wagered whoopie pies on this years hockey championship. BH, being from Chicago, agreed that if the Flyers were victorious she would bake me carrot cake pies in Flyers colors (orange and white). If the Blackhawks reached hockey’s pinnacle I would bake her red velvet pies in Blackhawks colors (red and white). The Blackhawks took the series, 4-2, and I had some whoopies to make.

Blackhawks Whoopie Pies (adapted from Food Network)
(printable version)For the cake:
-1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, chopped
-1 ounce Hershey’s milk chocolate, chopped
-12 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1/2 c sour cream
-2 large eggs
-1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
-1/2 tsp. vanilla
-1 Tbls. red food coloring
-2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 cup sugar
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt

For the Filling:
-8 ounces neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
-3 Tbls unsalted butter, at room temperature
-2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract

1. To make the cookies. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the bittersweet and milk chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 50 percent power for two minutes. Whisk chocolate until it is smooth.

3. Melt the butter in a microwave and whisk together with, sour cream, eggs, vinegar, vanilla and food coloring. Set aside. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.

4. Divide the flour mixture into four equal batches. Add, one batch at a time, to the butter mixture. Whisk completely between each batch. Once the flour and butter mixtures are completely combined, stir in the melted chocolate.

5. Using a tablespoon, scoop heaping spoonfuls of batter and place them on the parchment covered baking sheets. Form the batter into circles and smooth the tops with a moist finger. Bake 10-12 minutes. You want the cookies to spring back when lightly pressed. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

6. Using a mixer, make the filling. Beat the neufchatel cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract. Using a spoon, scoop out heaping amounts of filling and place on a cookie. Spread the filling over the cookie, until it is completely covered. Place another cookie on top to sandwich the filling in between; repeat with the remaining cookies and filling. Chill whoopie pies for 30 minutes before serving.

Hockey has a unique way of handing out game awards. A third party chooses the three best players of a game, ranks them, and awards what is called three stars (1st star was the most important player, 2nd was 2nd most important and 3rd the third most important). Recently I’ve had my own three stars going on. The band, Stars, who remind me a lot of Metric. Stars has a lot going on right now. They have a new album coming out this Tuesday (June 22nd), sold out shows happening in California, a date at this year’s Lollapalooza and a European tour in September. The album, entitled The Five Ghosts, can currently be streamed at NPR.

1st Star-We Don’t Want Your Body

2nd Star-Wasted Daylight (Courtesy of Stereogum)

3rd Star-Fixed

Food Pairing 101: What goes well with homemade granola?

Food Pairing 101: What goes well with homemade granola?


Gainesville, Florida has left a lasting imprint on my life for a number of reasons (none of which involve the University of Florida). One of those reasons is a small, locally owned grocery store called Ward’s. At Ward’s the tofu is cheap, the fresh squeezed orange juice and bagels are cheaper and the granola flows like wine from bulk boxes. Any kind of granola flavor you can imagine, they’ve got. I banned granola when I moved to Tampa. It was too sugary or too expensive or too difficult to get. A few weeks ago I lifted the ban and tried homemade granola. Not only was the granola good but it was full of fruit and relatively low on the sweetness spectrum, just how I like it. I found the recipe at Pink of Perfection blog. I added dried cherries, walnuts and pecans and skipped the seeds (not a fan). I used agave nectar as my sweetener.

Pink of Perfection’s healthy homemade granola goes well with new music from Diamond Rings. We are talking new in the sense of his new twelve inch, “Show me your stuff” (being released on June 18th via One Big Silence). Not so new, but even better, is his earlier single “Wait and See” (released back in March).

You can also download “Wait and See” at Pretty Much Amazing Blog.

You might also like:
Prom Night 1985: Enjoying the Ride with Taco Bakes, Gremlin Cookies, My Gold Mask, Kim Carnes, the Drums and Diamond Rings

Momotaro, Polvo, Peaches and Crisp

Baked Goat Cheese Salad Dressed with the Drums and Carissa’s Wierd

Baked Goat Cheese Salad Dressed with the Drums and Carissa’s Wierd

There is an old adage that states “finders keepers, losers weepers.” Recently I exercised my finders rights when I entered an empty lounge and noticed an abandoned magazine sitting on the table. The magazine (Family Circle) featured a number of recipes that sounded delicious. I tried one last night, a baked goat cheese salad, and after just one bite I felt bad for the person who left the magazine behind. There was no doubt in my mind that, wherever they were, they were shedding tears.

Baked Goat Cheese Salad (adapted from Family Circle)
-4 slices of multi-grain bread
-2 Tbs. wheat germ
-1/2 cup walnut pieces
-1/2 teaspoon oregano
-salt and pepper
-1 log (8 oz) herbed goat cheese
-12 ounces baby spinach
-2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.2. Pulse one slice of bread in a food processor until crumbed. Transfer crumbs to a cookie sheet.3. Slice the remaining pieces of bread into small squares. Place on the cookie sheet with the crumbs. Spray both crumbs and bread squares with cooking spray and then sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. Toast the walnuts on a second cookie sheet for 10 minutes (can be done simultaneously with the bread).

5. Cut the goat cheese log into eight equal pieces. Coat the cheese with non cooking spray and dip into the crumb mixture until goat cheese is completely covered. Place the goat cheese slices on a cookie sheet and form into circles (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter). Sprinkle with wheat germ. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 minutes.

6. In a bowl toss the spinach, dressing, walnuts and bread pieces. Top the salad with goat cheese discs and serve immediately.

Forget the Bacos or the croutons, the
best topping for any salad is The Drums. Just a week has passed since the release of their first full length (self-titled). If you don’t own it yet, you are missing out on some great cooking music. Here is a video for my favorite track, “Forever and Ever Amen” as well as a link to download another track “It Will End in Tears.”

Before Band of Horses existed, Ben Bridwell (and former Band of Horses members Mat Brooke and Sera Cahoone) were part of the defunct band Carissa’s Wierd. Arising from the wreckage, on July 13th, Carissa’s Wierd will be releasing a retrospective called They’ll only Miss You When You Leave : Songs 1996-2003 (pre-order here). Here is the video for one of the tracks on that album, “Die.”

What’s Cooking with Alcoholic Faith Mission?

What’s Cooking with Alcoholic Faith Mission?

Sune Sølund and Thorben Seierø Jensen, two members from the Copenhagen band Alcoholic Faith Mission (first mentioned here), started playing together in 2006, while they were living in Brooklyn. Even though the idea for the band was bred in New York, it wasn’t until this year that the band actually had the opportunity to perform in the states. Recently I had the opportunity to correspond with the band and discuss their first US shows, as well as find out what is cooking with Alcoholic Faith Mission.

Alcoholic Faith Mission has undergone some unique transformations since 2006. I asked the band to give me a brief history:

Alcoholic Faith Mission is both a band and a music collective from Copenhagen, Denmark.

The project was originally started by Sune Sølund and Thorben Seierø Jensen back in 2006 when the two of them recided in Brooklyn, New York for a while. All though the band started as a acoustic duo Alcoholic Faith Mission quickly developed to a collective where friends from all over the world contributed to the recordings and concerts.

All though the band recently has evolved into a more steady five-piece including Kristine Permild, Gustav Rasmussen and Laurids Smedegaard many people still take part of the project that make Alcoholic Faith Mission today.

Alcoholic Faith Mission recently released their third album, Let This Be the Last Night We Care. In some ways the album is similar to their other two (2006’s Misery Loves Company and 2009’s 421 Wythe Avenue) but in other ways it is very different. The band talked about their new album and compared it to the other two:

As any other album from us Let This Be the Last Night We Care is developed by experiments banging at random things and shouting whatever came to mind at nighttime.


Our two first album was recorded under a set of fixed dogmas; Misery Loves Company (our first album) was recorded only during nighttime with plenty of booze and candlelights, while 421 Wythe Avenue (our second album) was recorded solely with the use of things available at the loft in Brooklyn where the album was recorded.

These kinds of straitjackets had a great influence on the atmosphere on the two albums, but with Let This Be the Last Night We Care we haven’t had the same kind of restrictions. All the songs are recorded with our small recording setup in Thorben’s bedroom under the mezzanine, and there is no doubt that even though we haven’t committed ourselves to any dogmas we have been working a lot with sounds and using things other than traditional instruments to add layers and effects to the album.

All in all our three albums have been made under completely different premises and they all show a different side of us as a band. Let This Be the Last Night We Care is definitely a progression that we are very proud and satisfied with, although we still don’t know what the musical expression is going to sound like on our next album. We’ll see… :)

Let This Be the Last Night We Care features the track “Got Love? Got Shellfish?” This track was remixed by Rasmus from Re:legion marking a first for the band. The first time a song of theirs had been remixed. How had this happened? Were there others on the way?

 

Rasmus is a very old and good friend of ours who asked if he could remix the track. We’re huge fans of Rasmus and his music, so we didn’t hesitate to let him do it. As we expected he did an awesome job. And yeah, a couple of other remixes are on the way…

Now, about their first US shows and their first time playing Denmark’s Spot Festival:

 

Coming back to Brooklyn where the adventure begin in 2006 and where Thorben and Sune lived for a half year in 2008 to record our second album 421 Wythe Avenue was our destiny. Touring the US has always been a big dream for everyone in the band, so this first US tour definitely was something we have been looking forward to.

Having the chance to present our music for an American audience was amazing. All we can say is that the 10 days overseas wasn’t enough so now we’re planning going back soon for a much longer tour.

It was our first time at the Spot Festival and it was a great experience playing at the totally packed venue Ridehuset. All though we played at a small festival in Copenhagen (for at lot bigger audience though) last year we consider our show at Spot as our first real festival gig.

We see pros and cons playing either festivals or clubs. At festivals we get the chance to present our music for a bigger audience and people who might not have chosen to go to a club concert with your band. On the other hand we have experienced that people at smaller venues are more dedicated to the music; at least our kind of music. We definitely want to play more festivals, but we might be strongest at more intimate venues with close contact to the audience.

I ended the music portion of our interview by asking them about Alcoholic Faith Mission’s immediate future:

Since we let go of Let This Be the Last Night We Care we have been working on new stuff. Because this spring have been packed with touring it have been on hold for a while. But hopefully we will have time to get back in the studio to work on new material during the summer.

We have a single festival tour during July and some gigs now and then, but besides from that we’ll have a couple of months off from touring over the summer. We are very excited to go back and work on new stuff because we have a feeling that the new material is going to be a bit different from our earlier stuff, and it’s going to be be interesting and exciting to see where new studio sessions will take us!

Since this is also a food blog I wrapped up our discussion with a question about what Alchoholic Faith Mission are cooking up (in the more conventional use of the word). Turns out, it’s a chili chock full of smoke, coffee and beer:

Alcoholic Faith Mission’s Smoky Chicken Chili with Stout and Coffee
(printable version)-garlic
-fresh jalapeno chili

-smoked chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
-cayenne pepper
-ground cumin
-cinnamon
-onions
-assorted beans (kidney, white, black – whatever)
-canned tomatoes
-fresh peppers (red and yellow)
-stout
-espresso
-chicken
-fresh cilantro
-sour cream
Note: There are not any fixed measurements to any of the ingredients – use as much or as little as you like. Remember to use a large pot.
1) Chop the garlic, jalapeno and chipotles finely. Chop the onions in large pieces. Fry all of these ingredients lightly in some oil. Add the cumin, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. The different chili flavors create a deeper chili taste. Continue frying until the onions are soft.
2) Add the canned tomatoes, the beans (remember to use pre-boiled beans – they come in cans) and the chopped, fresh peppers and bring the whole thing to a boil.
3) Add a shot or two of espresso and around a cup of stout to the pot and let the chili simmer for a long time – preferably a couple of hours, but 30 minutes will do if you’re in a hurry. If you are using boned chicken, then add this about 30 minutes before you serve, if you are using a whole chicken, then cut it into pieces and add them about 1 hour before you serve. The meat will then fall apart by itself.
4) Remember to taste the chili every once in a while – if it needs bite, then add jalapeno and cayenne. If it needs smoky flavor add chipotle (but be careful, because this adds bite as well). You should be able to taste all the different flavors (chili, smoke, cumin, cinnamon) without one of them overpowering the others.
5) When the chili has a creamy, thick texture it’s probably ready. If you want to cook it more and it goes dry, just add some more liquid (coffee/stout). Remember to season the chili (taste it!) before you serve it (salt + pepper).
6) Chop the cilantro, and serve the chili in deep plates with cilantro sprinkled on top. Also, add a large spoonful of sour cream.Here are two additional tracks from Alcoholic Faith Mission, one new, one old (via RCRD LBL):

Alcoholic Faith Mission-Got Love? Got Shellfish?

Alcoholic Faith Mission-Nut in Your Eye

Barbecued Cauliflower and Onion in a Pita coated with the Jackets and Static Jacks

Barbecued Cauliflower and Onion in a Pita coated with the Jackets and Static Jacks

Like its hot sauce brethren, bar-b-que sauce is unique in the condiment family because you can find hundreds of different varieties and recipes for it. Take this into consideration, when making barbecued cauliflower and onion in a pita one could decide to top it with Dancing Pigs, Sucklebusters, Insane Chicken, Crazy Uncle Jester’s Brush Fire BBQ or Fork N Halo (just to name a few). With each sauce variety you will come up with a slightly different finished product and that is part of the beauty of this recipe of the week.

Barbecued Cauliflower and Onion in a Pita
(printable version)

-1 Tbs. olive oil
-1 onion, sliced
-1/4 a head of purple cabbage, sliced thinly
-1/4 cup bar-b-que
-2 Tbs. water
-1/2 a head of cauliflower, sliced
-6 baby carrots, grated
-1 beefsteak tomato, sliced
-4 oz cheddar cheese
-8 pitas sliced in half
-pickles

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook for three minutes (until onion starts to become translucent). Add the cabbage, bar-b-que sauce and water to the onion. Cook for six minutes (cabbage should begin to soften).2. Add the cauliflower and grated carrots to the onion mixture. Stir-fry until cauliflower has softened, about twelve minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sliced tomato.3. Stuff vegetables into pitas. Top with cheddar cheese and half of a pickle.

Note: For an additional taste my mother-in-law likes to top this sandwich with a small amount of Italian dressing.

There are a lot of Jack’s associated with bar-b-que. Perhaps the most famous is Jack’s Bar-b-que in Nashville which has fed the likes of EMI, Sony Tree, Dolly Parton, Travis Tritt and Amy Grant. I’d like to throw two more jacks into the bar-b-que equation. First, New Jersey’s the Static Jacks who, at least in their demo for “Defend Rosie,” remind me of the Misfits and my favorite Jersey band the Bouncing Souls. Below you can check out a trailer for their “Defend Rosie” video and download the song courtesy of Tympanogram. Keep an eye out for these guys as they will doing a few shows in July with We Were Promised Jetpacks.

THE STATIC JACKS “DEFEND ROSIE” TRAILER from Michael Murray on Vimeo.

The Static Jacks-Defend Rosie (demo)

From Spain we have The Jackets whose song “Drunk” has been earworming me for the last few days.

Food Pairing 101: What goes well with a summery Fu*ked Up cover?

Food Pairing 101: What goes well with a summery Fu*ked Up cover?

(picture by J-Fur)

When I think about summer in Pennsylvania (because let’s face it, the weather in Florida makes it feel like a perpetual summer) I think long drives to the beach, the ding ding man, Katrina and the Waves, and root beer floats. I’m not a big fan of Katrina and the Waves, I find them slightly irritating, but “Walking on Sunshine” is 25 this year and it does remind me of sunny days…wait? What’s that? Fucked Up covers that song (well more like remixes it) on Brooklyn Vegan’s Sun Salute: A tribute to Katrina and the Waves for the 25th Anniversary of Walking on Sunshine? Summer just got a little better.

Fucked Up-Crooked Sunshine

“Crooked Sunshine” goes well with the aforementioned root beer float or Smitten Kitchen’s awesome cupcake version of this summertime delight.

You might also like:
I left my heart in San FranCrisco Mix
Vegan Linzer Torte Cupcakes
Dried Pumpkin and Fruit Mistake Cakes

Where we eat: Sweet Jane’s Candy Store

Where we eat: Sweet Jane’s Candy Store

Somewhere amongst the trees and anti-abortion signs, on the outskirts of Ocala National Forest, lies Sweet Jane’s Candy Store. I was first called to the store by signs alongside the road claiming whoopie pies were nearby. I walked into the store shoeless (there is no time to put on shoes when whoopie pies are to be had). It was set up like one of those old-timey general stores that dot the mountains of Pennsylvania. I quickly glanced around…where were the whoopies? Finally, my eyes landed on an entire counter decked out with the pies. I’ll admit, I had tunnel vision. From the website I see that Sweet Jane’s has oodles and oodles of homemade candies and fudge (and even gummy worms) but I couldn’t focus on any of this. Only whoopies would satisfy me. The whoopie pies ranged in flavor from chocolate and cherry to pumpkin and cream cheese this was a Pennsylvanian kids dream (I mean the Amish did invent the darn thing). To the left of the whoopie pie counter was a freezer that contained even more pies. These were stuffed with homemade ice cream rather than icing. It was a tough decision, all those glorious looking pies. I went with the carrot cake option and J-Fur went with the chocolate and cherry. We weren’t disappointed. We should’ve grabbed a few more for the drive back to Tampa.

Since my visit to Sweet Jane’s, whoopie pies have followed me everywhere. First it was my friend BH sending me a link to nine whoopie pie recipes that you’ll absolutely love. Then EW insisted that her sister has the best recipe (though I haven’t procured it yet). Finally it was some good ol’ hockey trash talk that led to a whoopie pie bet on the Stanley Cup finals.

I blame all of this on Sweet Jane and her quaint little store. Check out Sweet Jane’s Whoopie Pies (and possibly order some online) at her website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at the spread at the beginning of “Rich Kids” by Washington. Now imagine that spread with Whoopie Pies.

In less than three weeks The Constellations debut album, Southern Gothic, will hit stores. One of the tracks on this album is “Love is a Murder.” Here is a live version of the song from a performance last year in Athens, Georgia. Thanks to Spin (cough, cough) for turning me on to them. I’ve listened to the track a number of times and am pretty sure they don’t mention whoopie pies (although transpose blood with icing and wounds with whoopie pie in verse two and you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Sweet Jane's Candy Store on Urbanspoon