Monday, July 25, 2011

bakery/cookies: I strongly recommend FLORIDA BAKERY



FLORIDA BAKERY
No. 26, Ren Ai Rd, Sec. 4
(02) 2702-1175

MRT: ZhongXiao/FuXing or ZhongXiao/DunHua

website: bread.com.tw Chinese and some English and Facebook page

hours: 6AM - 11PM

$-$$

kid friendliness: lots of fun cookies and snacks, as well as supplies for DIY projects at home

visits reviewed: 4/25/2011 & 4/28/2011



I don't know what took me so long to check out Florida Bakery. Last Christmas, when I went to a cookie decorating session at a friend's house, I commented on the bright and vibrant colors of her royal icing. She told me that she ordered them from Florida Bakery and that option stuck with me. When I finally spotted the sign on Ren Ai Road and had some time to spare, I wandered in to browse.




Besides a huge store offering the typical breads and Taiwanese pastries, there's also a whole row of handmade, frosted cookies in adorable shapes and colors like pink elephants, polka dotted hearts and rabbits making funny faces. The colorful ones are NT$130/g and the ones with just chocolate decorations are NT$90/g. While it's kind of pricey, anyone who's ever made and decorated cookies with royal icing knows that it's a lot of work, so it's worth it for a special occasion and it's one of the only places I've seen them in Taipei.


There are also bridal themed ones with heart shaped cookies decorated with black and white tuxedos and wedding cakes that would perfect as a bridal shower or wedding favor. They also do custom order cookies, like for baby showers, but there's a minimum order and advance time requirement. For the holidays, they also do various themed cookies- for Easter, there were painted easter eggs and chicks; for Christmas, there are candy canes, Christmas trees and stockings. Browse their website for more of their designs.

 

So of course I couldn't resist and had to pick up some to share with friends. The cookie is crispy rather than chewy, while the royal icing is very hard and a thick layer of sugary sweetness.

 

There are also jelly candies and other cookies like chocolate chip (on the hard rather than soft chewy side).


At the back of the bakery, you can spot the busy bakers hard at work, as well as a shelf full of familiar looking goods from the US- salad dressings, jams, mustards, sweets. If you've ever wondered where to get Spam or Jello or food coloring or tortillas in Taipei, then you have to rush to Florida Bakery.



To the right of the store is a refridgerated section where you can find tortillas, cheese and deli meats. This is a good option for tortillas if you don't want to buy the supersized bag from Costco (that I never end up finishing and sticking in the freezer). Florida Bakery also has tortilla chips by the bag, and corn tortillas with an advance order. The store is open very early to very late, making it very easy to stop by before or after work.

Now I don't have lug back so many things from the states anymore. If only a Trader Joe's would open up in Taipei, then I'd be so happy.

OTHER LOCATION:

No. 23-5, Zhongshan North Road, Section 3, #23-5, 4F
(02)2594-6923

Friday, July 22, 2011

japanese: i strongly recommend WANG WEI RAMEN



WANG WEI RAMEN
No. 40 Chang An E. Rd, Sec. 2
(02) 2571-1678

MRT: Song Jiang/ Nan Jing

website: Facebook page

hours: 11 AM - 10 PM

$$

Kid friendliness: no high chairs spotted

Visit reviewed: 4/1/2011 &


Most of us probably have memories of buying cheap packs of instant ramen or Cup O Noodle and eating them at home, or in college or at work because all you needed was water to make a quick meal. Maybe we even fancied it up with a soft boiled egg, some veggies or meat to make it more appetizing. And there's a ton of forgettable ramen shops out in LA and even Taipei where I've paid US$7 and thought I could have totally made a better bowl at home myself.

All the ramen I've had before pales in comparison to the ramen I had at Wang Wei Ramen, which should satisfy those who haven't yet found a real bowl of ramen in Taipei.


The busy ramen shop probably seats about 40 or so, and fills up quickly during the lunch hour. With an open kitchen, the seats in the back have a good view of the chefs.


The Chinese/Japanese only menu is a bit confusing to the uninitiated- I'm still a little confused by it now even after having eaten there twice. Available from left to right are styles from three regions- Shinshu (shown with the red square) which is more thick, Kyushu (the orange square) is more sweet, and Hokkaido (the right page with the brown square) which is more intense. Then within each column there are different bowls to choose from, with bowls ranging from NT$220-290.


My first visit I chose a spicy miso ramen (to the far right of the menu) and on my second visit I got a bowl of Kyushu ramen with three pieces of cha siu. Surprisingly, I couldn't finish three slices and the bowls are huge enough to share, if you wanted to.



The broth is thick, but not too oily and thick with miso flavor, some might say umami, and the wavy ramen has the perfect QQ bite. The cha siu pork slices are the biggest I've ever had. I loved the the pork slices from the first bite- the huge pieces of cha siu are thick, juicy and hot and not too fatty. (Unlike some ramen places in Taipei where I've experienced that put in cool or cold pieces of meat into a hot broth which makes for a lukewarm cha siu and terrible experience). In addition to adding extra slices of pork to your bowl for NT$30, you can also add corn, butter, egg or vegetables.

You can get more broth to dilute your broth if you think it's too thick/salty/heavy. On my second visit, I did feel like it was too salty and you can request for it to be diluted before it comes to you the first time.

The garlic/onion ramen variation that my friend ordered is seasonal, only available from November to May. The Kyushu ramens also come with a slice of sweet potato and are made from wheat flour.



The soft boiled egg over rice with meat sauce (NT$100) is supposed to be mixed together before eating, and is a good bowl for someone who's not feeling like ramen. You can also get just cha siu over rice.


The Japanese style fried chicken (NT$180) is perfectly crispy and tasty.


Ramen aficiandos, tell me- what is the difference between the various regions of ramen and does Wang Wei Ramen get it right?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

hungryintaipei restaurant roundup- june/july 2011

-Galley Gong Bistro closed. I never made it there, but the expat opened bistro will be missed by many readers.
-Popular eatery from Kaohsiung, Bite2Eat, opened up their first Taipei location near Nanjing E. Road. Huge space featuring affordable pasta and pizza and various bites to eat.
-A second branch of Osteria by Angie opening up soon in Dazhi
-Grand opening of new branch of Just In Bistro and Wine Bar at Neo 19, where Mac Grill used to be.
-Chili's opened up a new location on Minsheng E. Road, near L'Idiot
-Saw Doner Kebab at Vieshow Xinyi was gone. Hadn't eaten there in awhile, but will miss that option.
-Hearing that Baba Kevin BBQ will move from catering/delivery to opening a storefront restaurant location for American BBQ. Exciting!

Happy summer! Anyone else spot anything worth sharing?

Monday, July 11, 2011

CLOSED! japanese/sushi: i recommend I-SUSHI


CLOSED a/o March 2012

I-SUSHI
No. 173, ZhongXiao E. Road, Sec. 5
(02) 2749-5951

MRT: Taipei City Hall

hours: 11AM - 10PM

website: i-sushi.com.tw and I-Sushi's Facebook page

$-$$

kid friendliness: high chairs available. first floor mainly sushi bar with 2nd floor additional seating.

visit reviewed: 4/28/2011



Walking around the 101 area, I was looking for somewhere new to try. Located on the busy ZhongXiao E. Road near Crown Bakery, I-Sushi is a solid choice for affordable, decent Japanese food in a family and group friendly environment. I was hesitant to go in at first because from the entrance it looks like there is only sushi bar seating and a few tables for couples on the side, but actually they have a second floor that has a ton of seating available for large groups.



One of the main negatives about I-Sushi is that the menu is only in Chinese with not a lot of pictures, so you have to bring someone who can read the menu, or quiz the fairly friendly waiters about what's available. The Chinese only menu is quite extensive beyond sashimi and only with advance reservations they have some sort of all-you-can-eat sashimi deal (NT$500 for 90 minutes?!) that I didn't quite understand. If anyone has tried it, explain to me how it works! Since we walked in without advance booking, we weren't allowed to try it. 



So instead, I got the I-Sushi chirashi bowl set (NT$380), loaded with raw goodies including uni, sweet shrimp, ikura, tobiko and slices of sashimi. Many of the sashimi bowls here come with a raw egg which I'm not crazy about, but I kind of went with it and put in a lot of wasabi. Everything tasted fresh, so I breathed a sigh of relief. The set also came with soup, salad, steamed egg and small appetizers.



My friend ordered the unagi over rice (NT$250).


I wasn't crazy about the soy sauce broth for the tempura udon (NT$160), but the udon itself and the tempura was good and came with big prawns. I also saw another large group and most of them ordered some sort of sukiyaki that came on a large ceramic mini hotpot.


I wasn't crazy about the soft shell crab roll (NT$200) as the rice was quite mushy and the soft shell crab was not crispy.



One of the best deals was the bowl of steamed rice with salmon and ikura (NT$50).


And a complimentary panna cotta for dessert. 


Opened over a year ago, I had never even noticed I-Sushi until I walked around this area (though after eating here I think there used to be a branch near Burger Stop?). It's always great to find another Japanese place, even better that it's not crazy expensive and a great option for a casual night out. 


Thursday, July 07, 2011

my kitchen: baby shower cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


When I made cinnamon rolls for the first time a few months ago, I made cream cheese frosting for the first time and fell in love. Cream cheese frosting from scratch definitely tastes so much better than the canned variety, as it's not as artificially sweet and you can adjust the cream cheese amount to taste. 

So when we were having a baby shower for my friend, I wanted to make some carrot cake cupcakes and of course with that flavor, you gotta have cream cheese frosting.


I kept it simple, frosting half of them in white and using a blue Wilton gel to write on top, and the other half I dipped in blue sanding sugar and piped more white frosting on top from a ziploc bag with a tiny hole cut out. I've seen a few recipes using less butter and adding honey, so I'm going to have to give that a try next time! Congrats again to my friends J and M!



EASY CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature     (I used 1/3 cup)
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package)
2-3 cups of powdered sugar                               (I used 2 cups)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
pinch of salt

METHOD
1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing. (I actually forgot to do this first and just dumped everything together. It was still ok. I also mashed/chopped up the cream cheese a bit to make it easier to stir and warmed up the butter in the microwave. I also eyeballed the butter since I didn't have it by the "stick" in Taipei, and I think I had less than 1 stick, so I'm guessing 1/3 cup. Many recipes call for the whole stick, but I like the cream cheese flavor over the butter flavor.)

2 Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness. (I added 1 cup and it definitely wasn't sweet enough. I thought with 2 cups it was good. Some might add another 1/2-1 cup of powdered sugar if you prefer it sweeter)

3 Either spread on with a blunt knife or spatula, or spoon into a piping bag to decorate your cake or cupcake. (And enjoy!)

Monday, July 04, 2011

western/event: i still strongly recommend CHILI's


CHILI's
Neo 19 Building (near Xinyi Vieshow/101)
No. 22, Song Shou Rd, 2 FL
(02) 2345-8838

MRT: Taipei City Hall

Hours: Sun- Thurs: 11 AM - 10 PM; Fri/Sat 11 AM - 11 PM

website: chilis.com.tw English and Chinese versions

$$

Kid friendliness: high chairs and kids menu & crayons available, sometimes balloons. room for strollers and large groups.

Visit reviewed: 5/9/2011
Previous visit reviewed: 7/2005


Happy July 4th! I've been to Chili's more times than I probably should admit since I first reviewed it almost six (!) years ago- (back when I was committing food blogging taboos such as using flash for pictures). Chili's has a familiar menu, lots of room for large groups (make advance reservations if possible!) and a Southwestern Tex Mex menu that has guacamole and all the fixings for the fajitas I often order (my usual is steak fajitas and quesadilla explosion salad, sometimes triple dipper appetizers or molten chocolate cake dessert).

But in all my visits there I've never tried their popular signature honey chipotle crispers, so I was pretty excited to be invited to see their cooking demo and try it out (for free!) along with a margarita.




I rarely get invited to media/press events so I was quite antsy when it started over an hour after the invitation time, but soon Chef Mike Winkelmann, Chili's culinary consultant, got cooking. He showed how the honey chipotle sauce was made from scratch, as well as how he prepared the chicken crispers for frying.


The chicken crispers undressed...


The chipotle peppers are smoke dried peppers and have a distinctive flavor that is complemented by the honey in the sauce.


Then the secret to coating the chicken crispers with the honey chipotle sauce? Putting it in a sealed container and shaking it! 


The result is a sweet, tangy, spicy and sticky coating to the crispy texture on the outside and tender meat inside. With corn on the cob and fries, one portion is enough to share. 


It was cool to take a peek at what goes on in the kitchen at Chili's as part of their culinary roadshow in Asia, where Chef Mike also prepared demos in Guam, Singapore, Philippines and Malaysia. Thanks to Chili's for the take home goodies and I look forward to checking out the new Chili's location that opened recently on Minsheng East Road in the Song Shan District.


OTHER LOCATIONS

Minsheng
Building A 1st Floor
No.134, Minsheng E. Rd., Sec. 3
Songshan District
(02)2545-8838

Tian Mu
No. 200, Zhong Cheng Rd, Sec. 2
(02)2875-4838

Taichung
No. 120, He S. Rd, Sec. 3
(04)3602-8838

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin