Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Sister's Baby Shower - Making of Desserts Part 1

Can I tell you that any event my family is involved in always becomes a big production? From food preparation, dessert making , floral arrangements, to outfit changes, we got it all to a tee. I don't mean to boast, but being surrounded by so many talented individuals is a bonus and indeed a true blessing. As we would always say that the success to every parties we hold is a combination of not only our talents, but most of all, the labor of love that we put into it. The outpouring love and support my family have for one another is what sets it apart. (Now you can say, "AWWW").
Before I get all emotional, let me get back to telling you about all the preparation that was done for my sister's baby shower. The first time my sister shared the good news with us that they were expecting, on the back of my mind, I knew had to start planning her baby shower soon. I immediately started brainstorming for ideas and looked around for inspirations from other blogs. My cousin, who is a corporate employee by day, but a true creative photographer, florist (yes, she did my wedding bouquet), and fashionista by heart, helped me brainstorm for cool ideas for the shower. We wanted to get the theme down before we could start planning the menu and decorations. Since my sister and her hubby kept mum on the gender of the baby, we had to come up with a nice earthy, unisex , and of course, a chic color combination. Orange, Brown, and White, that is! Mind you, we started planning as early as August. We wanted it to be perfect for her. And perfect it was!
So let me share the one of the most perfect desserts that our other cousin, who is a pastry chef from NYC made. I know, he had no break what so ever. He was already slaving in the kitchen for our Thanksgiving desserts. It was never ending baking on his part. We are truly grateful and somewhat spoiled because we cannot eat any mediocre dessert and not compare it to his creation. We are dessert snobs if I may say. Ha!.

One of the desserts that the mom-to-be requested was Sans Rival, a very popular dessert in the Philippines made with layers and layers of meringue, sandwich with a very rich butter cream filling, and toasted chopped cashews. Sans Rival, is actually a French word meaning wtihout rival. This dessert is very Filipino, but, with a similiarity to that of an Almond Dacquoise. This luscious decadent creamy dessert is not for the faint of heart. That's why it shouldn't be eaten on a regular but on special occassions where all calories are welcome:).

Meringues cooling off to be layered

Butter cream for filling

Sans Rival is finally coming together.

Toasted Chopped Cashews

This dessert gets better in time. The long it is left in the fridge, the chewier it gets. So good! I must say that I don't remember how many slices I consumed. The number on my weighing scale does not look good at all.

Stay tune tomorrow, I will post John's Chocolate Ganache Cake. Another to die for dessert!


My Family's Thanksgiving Meal

Let me apologize for not blogging lately. Bon Vivant Contessa has been busy entertaining family who came from out of town to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. Not to mention, I threw my sister a baby shower over Thanksgiving weekend as well. It has been a busy week indeed. I am just finally slowly getting back to my regular routine. And I have a million pictures to upload.

Let me just share with you some pictures of what we had for Thanksgiving. I know you'd probably be feeling envious after looking at them and wishing you spent Thanksgiving with us:-)

(click to enlarge to get a better viewing)

It was also an added bonus that we are blessed to have a pastry chef in the family. My cousin, who is a pastry chef in NYC, celebrated Thanksgiving with us and of course made all the decadent, to die for desserts. Next time, I will share with you a picture of my wedding cake that he made.

(Carrot Cake with Butter cream frosting, Key Lime Pie, and Mocha Cream Cake)

Thank you cousin John for all your decadent desserts. I have successfully gained 5 lbs of eating pure butter:-)

For those in the NYC area, John can accommodate any of your dessert needs. Please e-mail me for more information.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Filipino Comfort Food

My favorite childhood memory consisted of mischievous adventures with friends, birthday parties, christmas parties at school, and most of all my mom's special Sunday food! I had a lot of good memories growing up in the Philippines but one thing that I would keep craving for is my mom's cooking (thank God she lives just ten minutes away). Growing up in a small town, where majority of people grew their own food (ha! organic), we did not get to eat meat as often as we can because it was expensive. Our regular meal consisted of soup, vegetables, dried fish, fish, ramen noodles, and sardines. Mind you, it was still the best food and up to date, I still often crave for some sardines with rice. So, it is often a luxury for us when my mom would go to the city for grocery, which means hotdogs, cornbeef, and ham to stuff ourselves with until we get tired.

All of those are great memories that I will forever cherish, but, there is only one thing that I would always look forward to. Our Sunday lunch meal! Every Sunday after church, my mom heads over to the market to get the freshest vegetables and meat from the butcher. She would make a big pot of beef soup that consisted of potatoes, chinese cabbage, sweet potatoes, and plantains. I remember it being a very hearty and satisfying meal especially when it is served with rice.

On Sunday, I was rather feeling nostalgic thinking about my chilhood. It was cold outside and I wanted something very hearty to eat. Then, I thought about paying homage to my mom's Sunday meal. It is easily one of my favorite comfort foods that stays close to my heart. Now that I am comfortable in life and can afford to have as many meat as I want, I will still forever treasure those times.

Here is my own version of my mom's beef stew soup. It is very easy to prepare and make. The only thing that takes up your time is chopping all the ingredients. Once you have everything in the pot, you can resume other chores that you are doing.


Grassfed Chuck Roast (this is what I had at the moment, you can use brisket, short ribs, etc). Cut this in cubes. Boil in at least 4 cups of water until tender along with chopped onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, and ginger. This will take atleast an hour or so. Since I used grassfed beef, it did have that much fat in it, so I didn't have to take out the fat scums floating on top while the the beef was boiling. Once your meat is tender, add the potatoes and sweet potatoes and wait until tender. Once the potatoes are cooked, seasoned to taste. I added a little fish sauce and some soy sauce for flavoring. Add your bokchoy and simmer a little bit. Please don't over cook your bokchoy. The steam alone can just easily cook the bokchoy. Serve with rice if you want or just have the soup alone. This was a hit with B! And I must say, I did my mommy proud:-) What about you? What is your favorite comfort food?

Have a great Thanksgiving mes amis!


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Not your traditional surf and turf.....

Happy Sunday! Would you have guessed that the salsa on top of this pork rib chops is made with scallops? An experiment gone good (if that's even right, ha!). It's all about using every ingredients you have in the fridge. In my case, I purchased these all natural pork rib chops from Whole Foods and wanted to stay away from the usual method of preparing it. Without a doubt, it's really good served on its own already. But I wanted to incorporate the scallops, yellow and red peppers, spinach, and tomatoes that I have left that were going bad if I had leave them out for another day.

It may seem complicated to make but trust me this whole process took me less than 30 minutes (is that you Rachel Ray?). I seasoned my pork with salt and pepper, pan seared for a few minutes, then bake in the oven 375 degrees for maybe 15 minutes. It all depends on the weight on your chops. I reused the pan where I cooked the chops, saute my chopped scallops (that I also seasoned with salt, pepper and drizzled a little bit with fresh clementine juice), added the red and yellow peppers and spinach. Season to taste and serve it on top of your chops. Voila! Dinner is ready.....and it's healthy too!


Fashion Post - Friday Night's Outfit

Happy Saturday mes amis. Just sharing with you a quick outfit post. Last night B and I went to one of his best friend's birthday party at a sports bar in VA. Let me tell you that it's been a while since we have gone out and not too mention, it was freezing last night! I made sure I was layered up but still looking put together. My mantra: never conform to what the rest of the crowd is wearing. Try to always stand out!

And who says that you have to wear expensive clothing to stand out? Sheer Oversized Military Shirt is from Express. Jegging is from HM. Twilly is from Hermes. Tall brown wedge is from Sigerson Morrison. Knee High Socks is from F21. Chandelier Turquoise earrings from BCBG. Vintage Leather Fur Coat is from a yard sale. Looking good and feeling good is over course priceless. HE! HE!.

Here is a departing close-up pic. No make-up just mascara, a little cheek stain, and some lipgloss!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

If you like penne, italian sausage, and feta.....try this!

I love love love feta cheese pretty much on everything including on my pasta. Can I tell you how much it makes a difference to the taste? Only if I could pasta everyday, I'd be in carbohydrate heaven. But since I care for my figure, I try not to have it as much. Of course, I still make sure B has enough carbohydrate in every part of his meal. He usually complains that I am eating too healthy. At times when I feel extra motivated, I try to prepare two different dishes. One for my healthy self and a carbohydrate laden meal. He eats both but I don't eat his. Here is a pasta dish that does not disappoint. It's simple, fresh, and most importantly tres bien . If you want to impress your husband, you can definitely make this.

Creamy Penne Pasta with Spicy Italian Pork Sausage

I just pretty much use anything I could find in my fridge and develop my dish from there. Fortunately that day, I had plenty of fresh ingredients to work with. Here are the ingredients I used (I am not good at measuring so I just usually eye ball the amount I put in): chopped mushrooms, chopped red and yellow peppers, chopped roma tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, creme fraiche, tomato sauce, and Spicy Italian Pork Sausage (I got from Whole Foods butcher section, fresh not frozen). Whole Foods freshly made sausage are out of this world. They have different kinds that will please any sausage lover (no pun intended) hahaha. Take the casing out of the sausage, break the meat apart and brown it on the pan. Once cooked, put it aside. Use the same pan you just cook your sausage in, sautee onions and garlic for a few minutes, add your tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms. Stir and season to your taste with salt, pepper, and some herbs (like oregano, parsley, herbs de provence). Return the cooked sausage on the pan and add the tomato sauce and simmer until the sauce starts boiling. Then add your creme fraiche (you can substitute for heavy cream if it's not available), stir and let it simmer. Make sure you season it again according to your taste bud. Then once the sauce is done, you can pour over Penne pasta, which is cooked al dente, and topped with feta cheese. Serve and Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's A Very Fishy World

I make sure that foods high in omega-3 fatty acids especially fish are a regular part of our diet at home. I serve it at least three times a week. There is nothing better in getting your omega 3 fatty acids from food than supplements. But of course, I still take my omega 3 fatty acids supplements. Many studies have indicated that these healthy fats prevent a wide range of medical problems. Not only they taste good, but over all it's good for our health (it keeps your cholesterol low). So, I try to include seafood especially Wild Salmon on my grocery list as well as other healthy nuts such as almonds or walnuts.

One of the methods that I use in preparing my salmon is slow roasting it in the oven under 250 degrees. Slow roasting makes your salmon really tender. It helps retain still that moisture sans drying it, which we usually get when baked under 35o degree oven. I sliced some fennel bulbs, which I used as a base for my salmon. I then season my salmon with salt, pepper, or any kind of herbs you want. Also drizzle with some olive oil. Slice up the lemons and put on top of your salmon. Slow roast for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size.

Since we had plenty left and are too spoiled to eat leftovers, I made salmon patty cakes out of them. My version is pretty healthy. I used low fat mayonaisse to mix it with, chopped red and yellow peppers, Worcestershire sauce, a little bit of salt and pepper and one egg that acts as a glue to bind all the ingredients together. I baked the salmon cakes under 375 degree for about 12 to 15 minutes depending on how crispy you are looking for. I also made home made tartar sauce to go with it, which is a mixture of low fat mayonaisse, low fat sour cream, sweet relish, capers, red wine vinegar and a little bit of salt and pepper. Served on top fo your salmon. B enjoyed it very much. For a much healthier version, you can opt out on the buns. I sliced up some tomatoes and drizzled balsamic vinegar on top of it. A serving of asparagus salad boiled in low sodium chicken stock on the side as well. Love it with feta cheese!

Flounder is also one of my favorite seafood to eat. I can have them fried, steamed or boiled. My favorite of all times is the steamed pan fried flounder served with ginger and scallion sauce from HopKee Restaurant in Chinatown, NY. But since I don't live too close from NYC, I try to imitate this recipe whenever there is fresh flounder available at the market. Luckily, when I was in Whole Foods the other day, these wild caught flounder were on sale. I immediately thought that I will imitate the steamed flounder with ginger and scallion sauce. Now mind you, I don't have a steamer at home so I had to improvise. Instead I cut my flounder in half and boiled it with water mixed with apple cider vinegar and some ginger strips. I believe the vinegar and the ginger help take away that "fishy" smell. Boil it for maybe 8 minutes. You don't want to overdone it as the fish can get really dry. Put it aside and place some scallions and slices of ginger on top. I then heated three tablespoons of safflower oil (no sesame oil in my household) and drizzled on top of the flounder. Meanwhile my mixture of rice wine, soy sauce, white pepper powder, a little bit of sugar, and safflower oil was added in the pan to heat it up a little. Then I drizzled this on top of my flounder. Voila! Simple, easy, quick and delish!

What about you mes amis, what is your favorite fish to serve? Bisous, Contessa

Monday, November 15, 2010

If you want to please your man........

Feed him meat. Most importantly a nice piece of some good steak. Once a week. Serve medium rare or rare. Not medium well or well done.

The best way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I think the best way to a man's heart is to feed him meat, meat, meat. In all forms (lol). With seafood, B doesn't get so excited. But with meat, he'll start jumping up and down and wants to open his bottle of wine. Now you know that's an indication that he's about to be satisfied. Well with his meal that is.

Here's a simple recipe that can make your man sing and dance. Get a good cut of grassfed steak and simply season it with some salt and pepper and if you want some herbs, you can add rosemary or herbes de provence. Pan sear or grill, whichever method you prefer. Now the sauce is made of some really good balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, spinach and butter. Lots of butter! Melt the butter in the pan, sautee your mushrooms (you can use baby bella, button, whichever) for a few minutes until mushrooms cooked, add balsamic vinegar and reduce it to maybe 1/3 of the sauce then add creme fraiche as the thickening agent then add the spinach (optional). Season to taste. Serve on top of your steak. Voila! But make sure you have a side of carbohydrates to go with your steak. Bake potato. Sweet Potato. Fries. Mashed Potato.

Happy rainy Tuesday mes amis.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Food Review - Cuba Libre Restaurant

Besides French, Korean, and Vietnamese, B and I also favor Cuban cuisine. Although, it's really hard to find a place that can serve really good Cuban food. For those of your who are not familiar with Cuban cuisine, it's more than just rice and beans. You have a variety of dishes that combine flavors from Spanish and African cooking. Lots of spices and heat, which B loves very much. The last time we had some really good Cuban food was when we were in Miami last year. Imagine our excitement when we heard that Cuba Libre (they have branches in Philly, Orlando, and AC) was opening in DC. Unfortunately, we missed out on the offering of free food during their first week opening. I was even more excited to find out that this place was only a block away from the Convention Center. So after the cooking show, B and I headed to Cuba Libre! Without further ado, let me share with you our gastronomic adventure

What I love about this place is that they have an expansive food and drinks menu. They were also offering their brunch menu for the first time. We lucked out because one of our friends was working that day so he was able to recommend that we should try the different piqueos (just like tapas) on the menu. I thought this was a brilliant idea as we get to try a variety of them without stuffing ourselves too much, but I still think we did. Just let the pictures do the talking.

To your left is the Vieiras Favoritas (Baja bay scallops, blackened tomatillo-truffle sauce, goat cheese confetti) - the scallops were just the right size and seasoned perfectlly and the tomatillo sauce has a little kick to it.
To your right is Guava Mojito virgin (mind you, they have at least 20 different kinds of Mojitos to choose from). Guava reminds me of my childhood in the Philippines. It was clearly one of my favorite fruit. It's like a combination of apple and pear. So to have this was just refreshing and paired perfectly well with the food).

I love the interior of this place. It feels really homey and not too pretentious. It's totally different compare to other restaurants we have been in DC.

Guacamole Cubano. Their take on the traditional guacamole served with plantain chips. I mean look at that presentation! We loved how the guacamole is mixed with pineapple chunks. Nice sweet touch and citrus kick to it!

Albondigas Camaguey. Glazed beef, pork and pine nut meatballs served with pickled carrot cilantro slaw. Another hit from the menu. The meatballs were packed with flavors and the accompaniment of pickled carrot went well with it. The carrot was a little on the spicy side. I usually can't tolerate spicy food but this was just exceptional .

Pulpo con Berenjenas. Truffle and citrust marinated grilled baby octupus with Haitian eggplant salad. I love anything seafood especially squid or octupus and this was done perfectly. The octupos was really tender.

Cesar de Oriente. Crispy spring roll of braised beef short rib served with Shredded romaine with roasted garlic-caesar dressing and cotija cheese. This one was my top favorite. The cotija cheese on the salad tasted similar to feta cheese.

To your top left is Cochinito Chinito Cubano. Dark rum glazed pork belly. Who doesn't love pork belly especially when it's done right that it just melts in your mouth. As what B said, "this taste like heaven!"It was indeed heaven! The group sitting next to our table over heard us talking about it that they wanted to know what we ordered. lol!
To your top right is Carne de Cangrejo. Jumbo lump Maryland crab meat, smoked cheddar cheese, tomatillos and candied peanut salsa. Another hit as well.

The bottom is Torreras (I think it means to toast). French toast coated with toasted walnut and with Frangelico mascaporne cheese. Topped with drunken strawberry. This was also heaven. The mascaporne cheese just explodes the minute you take a bite. Now I have an idea on how to serve my french toast next time.

On the bottom left is Batata con Camarones. Cuban pesto-marinated grilled jumbo shrimp, roasted sweet potato and arugula salad. This was nice and light. Love the pesto on the arugula salad. On the bottom right is Yuca Frita. Cassava Cuban fries with cilantro caper allioli. Crispy on the outside but really tender on the inside. It just melts in your mouth perfectly!

Thanks Xavier for all the food recommendations. We super pigged out. But enjoyed every bite. I hope you did not get so hungry after reading this food post. Thanks for visiting mes amis!

Love the red door at Cuba Libre! Bisous, Contessa

The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show - The World of Specialty Products

There were a lot of noteworthy food exhibitors that we saw at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show over the weekend. However, the foodspring specialty food pavilion stood out and caught more of my attention. The banner itself was screaming, "come to our pavilion" and it's the first thing you notice when you start exploring the convention. Not too mention, the never ending line. It almost looked like a food assembly line where people walk around trying different samples in small plastic cups size. If not for my friend/college schoolmate, Vivian, who introduced me to foodspring specialty food, I wouldn't have any idea what the fuzz was. As I stood inline, there were a lot of curious by passers. I guess they were trying to figure out what the fuzz was as well.

They had a lot of staff working the pavilion who were more than willing and helpful to explain to everyone what they were in for. The bottom line is, you fall in line, you taste, and you vote for the best. We were in for a treat as these specialty products were sofi (specialty outstanding food innovation) gold awardees, which was presented by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). Who would have though such thing existed, right? And I thought I have tasted what I think what a "specialty product" is, but I guess not:-(.

People were eager to get a taste of these sofi awards specialty foods.

The faith of these specialty products fall in the hands of the tasters. Now I wonder which one made people's choice award?

Now enough ranting and let me share with you these sofi awards specialty products that we got to sample. From top left to bottom right, they were:

1. Sticky Toffee Pudding - I love love love this one. It's like a brownie married to a really moist buttery cake. It tasted like heaven. All I needed was vanilla ice cream with it:-)
2. Rozendal Hibiscus Vinegar - Who would have thought vinegar can taste this good? Apparently this is aged for 12 years in oak barrels and made from a Bordeaux blend that consists of Merlot and Cabernet. This can be great to use for salad dressing, macerate strawberries, or maybe for cooking especially with meat and seafood.
3. Sonoma Syrup Co. - Extract gift set of almond extract, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. This is probably heaven for bakers as it can really add aroma to one's cooking. I especially loved the lemon extract. I bet I can probably use this just to freshen up the smell of the house:-)
4. The Ginger People - taste like Vietnamese egg roll sauce but with a lot of ginger added to it. If you are a ginger fan, you will love this.
5. Notorious Cranberry Orange Tango - blend of walnuts, pecans, almonds and dried cranberries in a delicate orange confection. This was the bomb. Such a perfect snack and something different to the basic salted almond or walnut snack.
6. Delicate Cucumber & Shallot Artisan Vinaigrette - if i had salad right there, I would have been having a ball already. This was so nice, not too thick. Probably go well with salad or any grilled seafood.
7.Rosemary Parmesan Crisp - I didn't care for it too much. It tasted like bland rice cake.
8.Dalmatia Fig Spread - I love fig and anything that is preserve. Not too sweet and you can really taste the fig.
9. Mild Indian Curry Ketchup - nice substitute for a bbq suace. /
10. Masala Marinara - I've never hard tikka masala before so I don't have anything to base it with but I would still probably give this a try.
11. Fever Tree Ginger Beer - tasted like sparkling soda loaded with lots of ginger. It was very refreshing though.
12.Almond Toffee - almonds and I thought this was was nice.

This is my beautiful friend/school mate Vivian, who is the Marketing Guru behind foodspring.com. She's got the best job. I mean how do you stay slim being surrounded by all this goodness?

Thanks, again, for introducing me to your world. I can't wait to order some of these products.


The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show - Part 1

B and I had the opportunity to attend this year's Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show (thanks to Vivian of Foodspring Co. for the tickets)! It's a two day show that runs from Saturday to Sunday. To my knowledge, Ms. Danise Medved, author of two successful cookbooks (unfortunately, I don't own either of them), is the brainchild of The the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show, which was founded in 2005. Her passion for cooking and entertaining resulted to this genius trade show, which is now on it's 3rd year here in the nation's capital.

They had over 300 food exhibitors with a wide range of selection and offered tastings to the public. B and I had a ball trying a variety of food from cheese sticks to super creamy ice cream. They also had live cooking shows performed by some of DC's famous chefs. Of course, people flock and pay extra to see the very famous Food Network TV personalities, such as Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray and Paula Deen in a theater style presentation. I was fortunate enough to see Bobby Flay's presentation. Although, I caught the tail end of it, I was still able to enjoy watching him live as he was very entertaining.

I must say that the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show was a success. They had a positive turn out and the amount of traffic coming in and out was outrageous. As much as I wanted to stay longer, I just couldn't handle the crowd. But over all, I am glad I was able to attend. I mean who can't pass up a show that involves cooking and entertaining, right?

Now brace yourself with pictures from the show. Enjoy!

The signed the greeted us as we entered the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

These were for sale not for free tasting:-(. The red velvet cake looks inviting!

Organic ice cream from a local creamy in Maryland. I tried the butter pecan and it was sinfully delish!

Herbs anyone? They were all kinds of herbs such as basil and mint. 2 for $3, pretty cheap!

Bobby Flay cooking live.

Thanks for reading my blog mes amis. On my next post, I will be featuring foodspring.com, where they had a pavillion of specialty food. Not only were we able to partake in tasting different kinds of specialty food products they had to offer but also voted for the City Choice award for the best specialty product.