Magnolia Bakery

i've been so bad at posting ... sorry sorry! things have been keeping me quite occupied, but i do have a massive amount of photos that need to be uploaded!

i took a trip to New York last month and stayed with my friend S, and he and i went all over the place! part of the journey was, of course, visiting Magnolia Bakery, and we stood in line waiting for that glorious cupcake experience.

the actual bakery was quite cute; the service was nice, and the cupcake? well, pretty unique.

i ordered the red velvet with cream cheese frosting ($3.50) and ate it while sitting near a water fountain.. very city-esque. the actual cake was .. well, average. pretty much standard for what you'd expect red velvet to taste like! the interesting part was the frosting - i had never tasted frosting that was whipped to that extreme before! it was kind of flavourless though, but the texture was cloud-like. i feel like if there was more cream cheese, it would be even better.

i'm dying to try some of their other things - banana cream pie, cookies, or even their cakes. it'll definitely be on my to-do list when i go back!

Magnolia Bakery
1240 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020


Jamaica'n me hungry

i'm back from a nice sunny trip to Jamaica with J, and we definitely ate our hearts out while we were there - how can you not when it's an all-inclusive resort? (: the place we stayed at gave the option to either eat the the standard buffet, a few grills, and some formal restaurants for dinner, and we managed to sample every single place. for this post, i'm going to stick with the Jamaican dishes.

at the South Beach Grill, we enjoyed a nice 3-course meal right on (can you guess?) the south beach!

like the view? i'm sure you're jealous!


red velvet

another birthday post!

my roommate N from freshman year (whom i used to refer to as Pedro on my previous food blog hahaha) brought me a red velvet cupcake from Bennison's for my birthday! i was quite excited to try it, as i've heard many good things about their baked goods - not to mention Peet's sells them on a daily basis.

the cupcake itself was quite large, and the amount of frosting that is on top takes up about 1/4 of the height. the presentation was super cute! however, the frosting was way too sweet for my taste - way too much sugar, not enough cream cheese. i definitely think Lola's has the right idea in terms of sweetness.

the cake itself was very moist and soft, which was good, because no one likes a hard cupcake! still, i think i would've enjoyed being able to eat some frosting with each bite.

Bennison's also sells red velvet donuts! i'm quite interested in seeing how that tastes...

Bennison's Bakery
1000 Davis St.
Evanston, IL 60201

Le Bar

to celebrate my birthday exactly at midnight, a few friends and i went out to downtown Chicago and camped out at Le Bar. the place was relatively filled for a Sunday evening, and the service was decent. aside from getting some of their signature cocktails, we also ordered from their bar menu, which wasn't too shabby. overpriced? yes. delicious? yes.

Prairie Moon

okay, so i've been kind of rubbish at keeping up with this blog. for the past month i was occupied by finals, work, and then a nice warm trip to Jamaica with J, so i haven't been too good with posting. but i'm back and i'll make up for lost time! (:

anyway, for my birthday dinner a few friends and i went to Prairie Moon, one of my favourite restaurants in Evanston.

i normally LOVE their burgers (especially the Pico Pepperjack Moon Burger.. best thing ever!), but i decided that i'd actually try one of their entrees for a change.

i got the Key Lime Margarita Shrimp Skewers ($18.95), which came with 2 shrimp skewers, tortillas, rice, sliced avocados, and salsa.

 i was surprised by the amount of food they give - it was a lot of shrimp! the only thing was that the salsa was incredibly bland...it kind of tasted like pasta sauce, actually.

the shrimp was not extremely flavourful either .. i was rather disappointed. i mean, it still tasted good, but the "key lime margarita" definitely didn't come through like i thought they would.

normally i'm pretty happy with things they serve, so i'm hoping that this was just an off day? still, i think the next time i go back i'll be sticking with the burgers - definitely a lot cheaper and less of a gamble!

Prairie Moon
1502 Sherman Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201


orgasmic foods i've had recently (imho)

so there aren't pictures to go with this post, but i just wanted to share a few things that i've eaten recently that taste so great it makes me want to cry haha!!

1. Whole Food's Triple Soy Salad
edamame, yellow soy beans, adzuki beans, tofu, shredded cabbage, and seasoning. super healthy and super delicious. (and for $7.99 / lb it's not too pricey either!)
2. Peet's Small Soy Cappuccino [dry, with 2 dashes of raw sugar]
okay, i might be a little biased, but it's hands down the best cappuccino you can imagine. (side note: i'm taking my barista certification test soon!)
3. AU79's Papaya Bing Sa
i have no idea what they add, but it's the creamiest, melt-in-your mouth drink ever. absolutely in love with it. ($4.70 with student discount)
4. Jazz Cat's Fish Balls w/ Caviar and seasoning
you have to try it to understand what i'm saying..really. they only give you ONE with every hot pot order, so you'll have to get a separate plate of them. it's worth it, trust me.
5. Seafood Harbour's Fried Mochi Balls with Salted Duck Yolk dimsum
it's like heaven, but a little better. the salted duck yolk will change your life. ($3.50 never tasted so good..)
6. Whole Food's Fresh Berries Cake
i think everyone at my birthday party would agree with me..cream, spongy cake, fresh berries, more cream, custard, more spongy cake, more berries..oh Lord. ($19.99 for a 12'' cake)


one sixtyblue

to finish off a busy week of work and school, J & i went to one sixtyblue as my finale to restaurant week (though she's going to at least 2 more this weekend...i've reached my spending limit already haha)! it's one of the restaurants that Michael Jordan owns, and it's always had a reputation for being an amazing place to eat. in fact, it's been on my "List of Chicago Restaurants to Visit" since 2007, and i finally had a chance to eat there!

J and i decided to each get different dishes so that we could try as many different ones as possible, so prepare to scroll through an amazing collection of pictures! (:

welcome to one sixtyblue - it's right off Ashland / Lake!


The Melting Pot

Chicago Restaurant Week has officially begun, and my friends (including J, AK, and my adopted older brother JT) and i decided to take advantage of that on Saturday by heading to The Melting Pot for lunch. Most people would probably spend about $50 plus tax & tip on a normal meal there, so the $22 lunch option seemed like an amazing steal.

the last time that i'd been here was for a party, so the entire bottom floor had been rented out and we had chocolate fountains flowing...i blogged about it before but i didn't document it very well, and was glad to have another chance to eat there.

the meal started off rather shaky, as one of our burners didn't work and they had to switch us out of our booth - not to mention our waiter ignored us for a long time and didn't get us our waters until about 45 minutes after we had been seated. after complaining to the manager, they were a LOT more attentive, and the real fun began!


homemade Italian

i finally had the chance to invite my roommate from last year over to my apartment and cook with her! A and i decided after shopping in downtown Evanston for a while that we were going to cook Italian, so we headed to Whole Foods and picked up some stuff. most of the things from the meal were ready-made: Caesar salad with dressing (which, by the way, many people think is Italian because they associate it with Julius Caesar, but it's actually of Mexican origin), a fresh demi-baguette, pre-packaged parmesan cheese, and ground pesto, as well as fresh ravioli from Trader Joe's.

we heated the bread in the oven for a while and then essentially made "bruschetta". notice that it's in quotes because i honestly didn't bother looking up any recipes or suggestions - i just tossed together some ingredients and made my own (aka substituted cilantro for basil). it actually turned out really nicely! the pictures look so pretty, don't they?? red + green = happy! maybe because it reminds me of Christmas..it's just so bright and happy!

the ravioli was the chicken sausage ravioli with mushrooms and cheese from TJ's (my favourite grocery store EVER).

we cooked it and then browned it in some pesto sauce..we originally were going to make a cream pesto sauce, but A somehow made it curdle HAHA. okay, i blame her but i honestly don't know if it was truly her fault ;)

we also bought some vodka sauce from WF that we're going to test out with our Conchgliette pasta some time soon (: stay tuned for delicious pictures some time soon!

hot pot!

for Valentine's Day / Chinese New Year, J & i went with HKSA to Chinatown to eat some hotpot (shabu shabu) and ring in the (second) new year! it was a long trip that spanned from 5 pm til 11:30 pm, but it was completely worth it!

the concept of hotpot is simple: dump food into a boiling pot of seasoned broth for minutes at a time, and then fish it out when it's ready to eat. dip it in as many sauces as you want to (generally you stick with satay sauce, garlic sauce, and other Asian creations) and shove it into your mouth. repeat until you are stuffed!

for $25 per person (plus tax and tip), all 11 of us ate the all-you-can-eat hotpot buffet at Lao Sze Chuan, a restaurant in Chicago's Chinatown that has grown rather famous for its dishes. i've blogged about it previously in my old food blog twice - the first time was amazing and the second was crap. i was hesitant to go there because i wasn't sure if i wanted to pay for a bleagh meal again, but i was happily rewarded with good food and good service this time!



J & i have been kind of slacking in terms of going out and eating.. even though we feel like we've been eating a lot, i think we've focused more on wine sampling than actually restaurant-reviewing. we decided to change this by heading to Argyle and getting us some authentic Vietnamese food this Friday!

this is technically only the second entry in the "Eating Our Way Out" series, but we'll pick up the pace soon haha. having tried 777, Tank, and 999, the only place left to go and get some warm pho was 888, which was recommended by the NU Asian magazine.



i've always been kinda ehhh about this place since the first time i stepped foot inside. i think the concept is nice, and the food is quite good, but i'm just unwilling to pay $8 each time i go to eat here. some how i don't think the sandwiches are THAT nice...

with that said, it's convenient to drop by once in a while and pick up one of their flatbread sandwiches. since it's in the dead of winter and i'm in Chicago, i went for the 1/2 + 1/2 soup/sandwich combo - lobster and butternut squash bisque & hummus and fresh veggies sandwich.

the lobster bisque was surprisingly good - albeit rather watered down and light, i was surprised it was even offered on the menu since it's not exactly the cheapest dish to make. i appreciated that it was very light though, because most of the lobster bisques i've had in the past have been way too salty.

the sandwich was stuffed with veggies and generously spread with hummus. it's a very refreshing thing to eat because it's not weighed down by meat, and the veggies just make you feel very happy (: at least, they make me feel very happy! note that you probably shouldn't have this on a date, though - red onions will stay on your breath for quite a while hahaha.

again, i probably wouldn't come here more than once every month (if even) because you could eat at other places for much cheaper, but when the craving kicks in, what can you do? (:

1740 Sherman Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201

homemade Asian food

i haven't been too good with keeping up this blog, have i? :( sorry!

school and work have definitely been keeping me busy, and i've barely had time to EAT in between all my meetings, let alone cook. that's why this entry is going to focus on something i cooked a while ago..

i bought some frozen squid at H-Mart and decided to make my own version of Kung Pow Squid. you know, it actually turned out quite nice!

i added an insane amount of serrano peppers as well as some Siracha garlic pepper sauce. yum!

i paired this with some stir-fried bean sprouts and, of course, my mixed wild rice.

i think there's about 7 or 8 types of rice in the mix that i bought from Whole Foods, and i really love it! it makes you feel super healthy when you're eating it, and the overall texture is very chewy and nice.

a nice big plate of food makes me very happy (:



this is going to be the first of a series titled "Eating Our Way Out of Chicago!" haha. what exactly is that? well, J and i decided last Sunday that we were going to try and eat out somewhere in Chicago at least once a week since we're both getting the heck outta here soon! we did some research, jotted down a few places of interest, and started today.

the place we chose for the kickoff was Japonais, a Japanese restaurant in the swanky River North area. the menu is slightly pricey, but they also have a few affordable dishes..though i wouldn't expect to spend less than $30 a person unless you only nibble on a single piece of nigiri or something.


Tapas Barcelona (in America)

i made the distinction because i actually have pictures from REAL tapas from Barcelona as well! that is a post that will come later this week, i think..

anyway, this tapas place is located right next to the Northwestern campus, so it's rather convenient to go to for a quick Spanish meal. i last came here in summer 2009, and i think my friend and i nearly cleaned the entire place out. the waitress was quite surprised by how much we ordered! i think we were just starving, and everything on the menu looked super appealing at the time.


Roy's Hawaiian

i actually ate here a while ago, but i never had the chance to post up pictures! and trust me, this place is worth blogging about (: Roy's is probably one of my favourite restaurants to visit whenever i'm in the mood for good fish and a cute atmosphere. the Chicago branch has the option to sit either at the chef's counter, or to get a normal table; i've had the pleasure of trying both experiences and they were both great! obviously if you're a foodie or love watching chefs works (and don't mind the excess noise), i'd definitely try the chef's counter at least once.

the more i think about this meal, the happier (and hungrier) i am getting! (:


grilling steak

since i am now living in an apartment, i've stocked it up with various utensils, appliances, and lots of other stuff. i bought myself a nice little George Foreman grill (: this has been a good friend of mine, especially when it comes to grilling meats! my honorary roomie J and i have been cooking up stuff at least once a week, and we decided to get some steak in our tummies!

we went to whole foods and got us some New York strip steak, which wasn't that expensive - $5 covered both of our pieces. i had some sweet potatoes in the fridge, and we picked up a bundle of asparagus for about $4.

take some Chicago chophouse dry rub, add a bit of your own magic, rub it in, grill for a few minutes (by professional lil ol' me!), and you'll get a nice, juicy steak!

yumm. this really makes me want to do a full-out barbecue some time!

we did mashed jewel sweet potatoes with ginger (J pretty much did it all by herself; yay!), and that came out pretty nice as well. i think what both of us were really looking forward to was the grilled asparagus!

they were still crisp, yet juicy, but not hard. thank you George! (:

our (semi-healthy) dinner below:

i think this beats out canteen (dining hall) food any day, no? (though i guess the canteen at Goldsmiths really wasn't that bad at all..)


seafood at the beach

i never had a chance to post up pictures from earlier this summer when i went to Santa Barbara. my family and i used to go there and eat seafood right at the beach, and it's exactly what we did again. we went on a trip with some family friends, and decided to grab lunch outside at the Santa Barbara Shellfish Co.


before leaving home for school, i ate with my parents at one of my favourite restaurants in LA - Houston's. it's a delicious grill-type restaurant in Pasadena, and though the options aren't super plentiful, they serve everything from veggie burgers to freshly made sushi. the prices can be a bit on the steep side; an average meal for 3 people probably costs about $100 if not more..

i ordered that day's fresh fish, which was salmon (MKT price). they prepared it by grilling it and then pairing it with some seasonal veggies - i chose spinach (: of course, to go along with it, i had to get a side of their hand cut french fries ($5) as well. they are the best...trust me on this one.

they gave me an enormous piece! it was definitely deeeelicious. the salmon was grilled to perfection! there was almost a crispiness to the edges, and the inside was juicy and tender.. yum!

my dad ordered the grilled loup de mer, which came with Marcona almonds as well as a side of spinach ($25).

looks delicious, no? (: the simple addition of roasted almonds can make a dish that much better..

finally, my mom got the crabcakes (MKT price), which she didn't really enjoy, even though they're made from fresh Maryland blue crab! they FedEx it to the restaurant daily and prepare it, but i guess that wasn't good enough for her.. haha. however, her favourite thing of the night? the baked potato with everything in the world on top - bacon, chives, cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions, butter ..

she and my dad had a blast tearing into this. i was too busy enjoying my fish and Arnold Palmer.

their service was impeccable as always, and even though we had to wait an hour for seats, it was well worth it. don't worry, Houston's can be affordable, too. their cheeseburger is only $14, and it's probably one of the best that i've ever had. also, if you get a chance, splurge on their ribs. they are to die for, and i don't even like pork!

320 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena, CA 91105



for some reason, the cupcake craze that i caught in London followed me home, all the way through my winter holiday and even to my trip to NY! i know what you're thinking.. cupcakes + NY = Magnolia Bakery, right? i actually didn't have a chance to go there because my schedule was so packed. however, on the way back from NYU, i did see a Crumbs Bake Shop and decided to get something there instead.

i got a regular hazelnut coffee (~$1.75?) and an eggnog cupcake ($4.50) (it was the week before Christmas), and i split it with my parents for a taste-test!

i have to say, it wasn't anything extraordinary. the frosting was incredibly sweet..i pretty much threw it away. there wasn't really an eggnog taste to the actual cupcake either; i think most of the flavour was in the frosting and filling, but again - too much sugar!! i ate a few bites and pretty much had to use the coffee to balance it out.

perhaps their other cupcakes are better, but i really don't see myself coming back here anytime soon. nothing spectacular, sorry :|

Crumbs Bake Shop - Union Square
124 University Place
New York, NY 10003

Chicago-style Pizza

i'm officially back in the Windy City! it's going to be my last six months in this city, and then i'm leaving (and not planning on coming back for a looong time haha)! i've marked Jan as the start of a long goodbye to the place, so i figured i needed to go food-exploring so that i can at least say i've eaten in all most of the hotspots in Chicago. in order to do this, you have to start with what they're incredibly famous for - pizza! deep dish pizza, to be exact.

my friend (and honorary roommate haha) J and i went to the source of deep dish pizza, also known as a restaurant named Uno in the city centre of Chicago. the place was rather small, but we managed to squeeze in after a 15 minute wait. we didn't want leftovers, so we each got a drink and split an individual-sized (about 7 inches in diameter) Numero Uno ($8.99), which is a pizza with the works: sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, mushrooms, & cheese. i, of course, had to add on some grated parmesan as well as red pepper flakes. yum!

these were my 2 pieces - perfect portion for lunch! (it's actually smaller than it looks...)

J & i both agreed that this is the best deep dish that we've had since coming to Chicago! the crust was nice and crunchy, and didn't get wet even with all the sauce and toppings. there was an amazing layer of sausage placed beneath all the toppings - picture flattened sausage pressed into the dough. the ingredients were plentiful and not overpowered by cheese. the only complain that we had was that the temperature wasn't ideal. the pizza had already started to cool, and we wished it was still piping hot when they brought it out.

after trying Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, and Gino's East, i have to say that this is probably the best place to get deep dish. even though i still prefer thin crust (yay NY style!) pizza, deep-dish isn't bad to have once in a while (:

Pizzeria Uno
29 E. Ohio St.
Chicago, IL 60611


pumpkin spice cupcakes

it's been a long time since i've actually baked! probably a bit over a year now..wow. i've been craving pumpkin spice cupcakes for the longest time, and i finally decided to do something about it. i made a batch for a dinner with family friends, and they were well-enjoyed!

the presentation looks quite nice, doesn't it? (: i loved the cracked tops!

these are completely 100% hand made from scratch. and by scratch, i mean even the nuts on the top were cracked open by a hammer HAHAHA. seriously. (those who know me understand that i only like eating nuts that i take out of the shell by myself..peanuts, pistachios .. and everything else keke). okay wait, i realise that i used canned organic pumpkin - but everything else was definitely from scratch!

i altered the recipe i got to cater to my crowd - i used mostly whole wheat flour, added some extra pumpkin, and i probably cut the sugar by half, if not more. the frosting was also made with light cream cheese, and instead of the normal amount of sugar, i used only 1/3. it wasn't as sweet as normal cupcakes would be, but they're definitely better for you!

the preparation was a tad difficult because, like i said, i had to do everything by hand, including the mixing. it's very, very hard creaming butter & sugar when you only have your arms and a fork. time to invest in a kitchen aid mixer for sure haha (:

let me know if you want the recipe! these are fun to make and definitely makes your house smell delicious!


Patisserie Valerie

once i got to London, i immediately researched all over to see which food establishments i had to visit. though most of them were quite out of my budget, there were some bakeries that i knew i HAD to check out. one that kept popping up in my searches was Patisserie Valerie, and though i never made any plans to eat from there, i ran into one during a visit to Spitalfields Market. the place was super, super crowded, and even though i had already eaten that day, i knew i had to get some goodies to go..

they pack everything for you in a cute little paper bag btw (:

i chose the grilled croissant with cheddar cheese & ham (£2.50) for lunch, which was definitely a steal because it was HUGE and delicious!

they generously gave lots and lots of ham, and they heated it up for you before putting it in a nice black box. the croissant was very, very crispy on the outside - something that i didn't know if i liked or disliked. it flaked a lot when you tried biting into it, so it was a bit annoying. still, i felt like it was very well made for the price.

i also got a blueberry muffin (£1.60) to take home for breakfast the next morning.

it was one of those café style muffins where the top is cracked and overflowing - my favourite.

there were lots of blueberries jammed into the muffin, and the batter wasn't overly sweet. definitely a huge plus! and for £1.60, it's extremely affordable as well.. pair it with a great coffee and you're set for a great day!

Patisserie Valerie
37 Brushfield St.
London E1 6AA

dimsum in Londontown

generally, dimsum in LA is served between 9 am and 3 pm, and you go with a bunch of friends and order lots of goodies to share. consider it Chinese tapas, if you will. however, it's quite different in London's Chinatown; food is available from noon until 5 pm, so i guess it's eaten more as a lunch / afternoon snack. the prices are obviously a bit on the steeper side, so that left me with no choice but to order less dishes than i normally would.

E and i had dimsum twice while i was in London, and the pictures below are from my second (and final) experience. we went to a little restaurant in Chinatown called Harbour City, and it looked quite nice inside. even though it was 4 pm, they were still serving all the delicious dishes! yay for long hours of dimsum..


Sunday Roast

though roasts are not limited to being eaten only on Sundays, it's still generally considered tradition to have them on the weekends. instead of having them for tea (dinner) like you'd expect though, it's actually supposed to be at lunch. most pubs in London will offer roasts / carveries for anywhere between £5-10 on Sundays, which might actually be cheaper (and definitely less of a hassle) than if you cooked it yourself.

i had my first official Sunday roast at Hobgoblin, a pub right next to Goldsmiths. for £6, i had beef, mixed vegetables, a Yorkshire pudding, and some roast potatoes.