Monday, September 28

Dusty's Tap Room

My friends and I had a little celebration this past weekend. There has been much love, support, and determination along the way. I am so grateful for the gift of friendship! Our get together to celebrate the occasion took place at Dusty's Tap Room. This latest addition to Dusty's cellar facility offers an upscale pub-style dining experience that I have fallen in love with.

We went for Avalon's Cab as recommended by my friend, Beth. It was quite nice that we ended up opened another bottle without switching to something else. I find this Napa Valley wine easy to drink - sweet, creamy, and heavy vanilla. A blend of Cabernet Sauvingon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Syrah exhibits aromas of raspberry, blackberry, mint, and black cherries.

For appetizers, we had Spicy Feta Dip, and Hummus. They were served with pita chips, and fresh vegetables. I really enjoyed the Spicy Feta Dip - nice texture, very tasty with a balanced kick to it. The pita chips were addictive, I have to say..

Hummus was served in a bell pepper bowl, which was prepped ready to be eaten as well. It was light and refreshing with a hint of citrus. The vegetables were nice, and freshly cut - that you could tell they hadn't been cut and sit there forever. Talking about quality of ingredients there.

Then, some of us ordered salads, and some ordered burgers. I had Spinach Salad - with dried cherries, toasted walnuts, blue cheese crumbles with poppy seed dressing. I chose bacon to add some texture and extra flavor. Is there anything bacon doesn't go with?! All of my friends also enjoyed their burgers.

To me, I think Tap Room is a great place to go have a drink (or two), grab some nice pub food with Dusty's twist, -- and even people watch!

Dusty's Tap Room:
1857 W. Grand River Ave.
Okemos, MI 48864
(517) 853-8840

Sunday, September 27

ArtPrize: World's Largest Art Prize

Thanks to my son's this weekend soccer game, and my friends - Jim & Kath, I had a great opportunity to attend an amazing event, ArtPrize, right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize is an international art competition participated by artists from around the world -- for the world's largest prize for art.

According to Amway heir, Rick DeVos - ArtPrize creator, “It’s time to reboot the conversation between artists and the public. ArtPrize will be a celebration of art, design, and innovation that will bring artists and the public together like never before.”
In this competition, the top 10 finalists win a cash prize. The top prize is $250,000. Second and third places receive $100,000 and $50,000. The Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation is providing prize money. The audience votes to determine who wins the largest art prize in the world.
We only went to one venue among many others around town. By the famous the B.O.B building, there were very crowded with exhibited arts & artists, art enthusiasts, and people from near and far. It was a lively and entertaining experience..!! Hundreds of venues are part of the event, ranging from corporate lobbies and empty buildings to public parks.
Here's some of the arts I visited at the event;

Big Red - Concrete, Cramic, water Sculpture by Pual Flickinger
Moose - Welded steel nails, by Bill Secunda
Car Chase - Multi-media Installation by Thomas Aitken
Monkey Business - by Robert Shangle
The Hermit - Wood Carving Performance, by Mike Moy

"I Too, Have a Dream" - A 65 foot easel holding a 12’x16’ painting comprised of 84 panels, by Gurmej Singh. Artist Singh was dropped off by a helicopter on top of the 65 foot easel. He will stay on the easel for 14 days as part of the project. The plan is on October 6th, Artist Singh will jump from the 65 foot easel to symbolize - he was part of the project, he was part of the dream, and now that he has accomplished his dream successfully he will detach himself with a winner's spirit to move on to see another dream.

Land of Giant - Oil on Masonite by Jon Post
Cloud Form 09.09 - 3-D Installation by Mark Rumsey

What: An international arts competition with nearly $500,000 in prizes awarded to artists whose works receive the most public votes
When: Sept. 23-Oct. 10, 2009
Where: Venues throughout downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, Grand Rapids, MI
Who: All professional and amateur artists from around the world

Old Town BluesFest

Last weekend, I went to Old Town BluesFest and had a wonderful time. It was a two-day free music festival in Lansing. The event featured the most recognized and varied performers, which brought national, regional, and local acts to more than 10,000 audience from across Michigan and close by states.

Before dark

Music and fun until late night

Fun finds at the event

Thursday, September 17

Chicken Massaman Curry

Considering a wide variety of curries in Thailand, Massaman is more influenced by Muslim food. This is a curry dish that develops its complexity very well, and tastes even better if you let it sit overnight. Usually, Thai Muslims make this dish with beef, but since I had chicken handy in my refrigerator, it's going to be Chicken Massaman today.

The ingredients that give Massaman curry paste a distinctive taste include: dried red chilies, roasted shallots, roasted garlic, lemongrass, galanga, shrimp paste, roasted coriander seeds, roasted cloves, roasted cumin, roasted cadamom pods, and salt, which are all pounded together to make the paste. I am taking advantage of canned paste from Asian grocery store, and find Mae Sri brand deliver pretty satisfied outcome.

You will need:
  • 2 lbs. chicken (5 drumsticks in this recipe)
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 can (4 oz.) Massaman curry paste
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Idaho potato, peeled and cut into big chunks
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into big pieces
  • 1/4 cup roasted (whole) peanut
  • 2 dried Bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP palm sugar
  • 2 TBSP fish sauce
  • 2 TBSP tamarind concentrate
  1. Fry Massaman curry paste in 1/2 cup coconut milk in a pot until fragrant, using medium heat and keep stirring until you see the red oil bubbling up.
  2. Add chicken pieces and fry until outside is sealed.
  3. Add the rest of coconut milk and water, then bring it to a boil. Then, lower the heat to medium and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add potato, onion, peanut, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer under medium heat for another 10-15 minutes, or until potato is soft.
  5. Add palm sugar, fish sauce, and tamarind concentrate. Simmer for another 5 minutes so that all the flavors blend. You can adjust the seasonings to your taste before turning the heat off.

Note: This is an updated version of my old post, which got buried under more and more of the new ones. Massaman Curry is such a staple dish that you could always find it in menus of most Thai restaurants. Many of Thai food fans I know often ask me for the recipe, so I thought I re-post it :)

Ready for.. Fall

Sunday, September 13

Moon Cake

Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the most popular festivities in China, and it is being celebrated all over the world nowadays. It is also called Moon Festival, and always on the 15th day of the 8th month by the Chinese Lunar Calendar. This year it falls on Saturday, October 3rd. In general, the main celebrations for this event are appreciating the moon, making Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns, and eating moon cake together. Although, people in different parts of China have different ways to celebrate this festival, one traditional custom has definitely remained and is shared by all the Chinese. That is eating moon cake.

Moon cakes are pastries that are about an inch in height. Inside, they are filled with sweet fillings. For generations, the fillings have been made with mixed nuts, red bean paste, lotus-seed paste, or Chinese date. Sometimes, a cooked salted duck's egg yolk can be found in the middle of the rich tasting dessert. The surface of moon cake is patterned the clouds, the moon, the rabbit, and Chinese characters. Nowadays, Chinese communities all over the world make and consume moon cake during the traditional Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

Eating moon cake somehow symbolizes the reunions of families and couples. The exchanging of gifts during the festival is one of the hospitable custom, and lovers would also give moon cake as present to show their passions. Today, there are hundreds of variety of moon cakes on sale a month before the arrival of Moon Festival.

For Lansing area, you can find a nice selection of beautifully packaged moon cakes at the Oriental Mart, located at 2800 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing, MI -- not far from MSU campus. If you've never had any, give it a try - so you can experience not only its delicious taste and charming looking, but also the cultural and artistic connotation. With various flavors and delicate packaging, moon cakes have become a kind of artwork. You can just also get artistic pleasure, while enjoying them.

Monday, September 7

Tom Kha Gai: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Tom Kha Gai is another well-known Thai soup, besides Tom Yum Goong, that is served in every Thai restaurants, in Thailand or any part of the world. The unique flavor of this dish comes from the main ingredients of galanga and coconut milk - that create the mild, rich, and creamy taste - with the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and spicy combination from lime juice and chili peppers.

You will need:
  • 1 C coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 water (or chicken stock)
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into 2" pieces and crushed with clever
  • 6-8 thin slices of Galanga, crushed (preferably fresh, otherwise frozen)
  • 1 C bite-size pieces of chicken
  • 1 C mushroom, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 fresh (or frozen) Kaffir lime leaves, TORN in half
  • 3-4 fresh chili peppers, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 C chopped cilantro

Galanga (also known as Galangal. Laos Root, and Thai or Siamese Ginger) - or "Kha" in Thai - is the main herb flavor that gives this rich and aromatic soup its fame. If fresh galanga is not available, frozen galanga will work great for this dish. I've seen many recipes suggest using ginger as a substitute. Believe me, it's completely different soup you would make there! Ginger doesn't have distinct peppery and lemony flavors galanga has. ... So, for me -- if there is no galanga, there is no Tom Kha Gai soup. Anyway, if you find galanga root at Oriental market, it can be stored in freezer really well; just slice into pieces and put then in zip-lock bag. Same thing can be done with lemongrass as well; just cut into 2" pieces before freezing them. In the meantime, dried galanga might be found easier, but I don't recommend using it as it doesn't give as good flavor as fresh or frozen ones.


  1. In a sauce pan, combine coconut milk, water, galanga, and lemongrass, then bring to a boil.
  2. Add chicken, fish sauce, salt, and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-high.
  3. Once chicken is cooked, about 2-3 minutes, stir in mushroom, chili peppers, and kaffir lime leaves.
  4. About another 2-3 minutes until mushroom is cooked and the flavors are all married, then turn off the heat. Stir in lime juice, green onion, and cilantro. Serve immediately.

  • Some recipes call for adding "Nam Prik Pao" (or Thai Roasted Chili Paste) to the soup. It is optional. The chili paste adds some color and spices up the dish.
  • For a vegetarian version, medium or firm tofu is a good substitute for chicken.
  • Remember, you can always adjust the flavor to your preference. Fish sauce and lime juice are the main seasonings you can add more or reduce.
  • Just like most Thai dishes, this soup is not a separate course, but one of the many dishes that are on the dinner table, to be eaten with jasmine rice.

Wednesday, September 2

Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe

Well.., I finally got to downtown DeWitt, and had my first Sweetie-licious Pie experience! Thanks to my friend, Jill, who kept telling me of how I would have loved this award-winning pie pantry where her family has been a big fan! .. I actually had heard all the great things about the place; just that I never made it there. This lovely vintage-style bakery offers variety of delicious pies and baked goods, made from fresh and quality ingredients - no fillers or preservatives are ever added.

All of Sweetie-licious' pies are completely homemade with hand-rolled crusts and at least six-cups of real fruit. How can you not love that? I am such a pie person -- I bake pies, I eat pies, and I definitely love GOOD pies.. All of us each had a slice of Cherry Berry Berry pie. I am not quite sure how to put into words of how I love that slice of heaven.. Look at the photos, it was so gorgeous and brilliant! It was bursting with the tart sweetness balanced against a crumbly crust.

Cherry Berry Berry Pie

Raspberry Custard Cream Pie

The interior of Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe is absolutely charming. The shop has the cutest color combination of pink and green. The decor includes some vintage furnishings and cabinet, as well as adorable collectibles -- giving it a homey feel.

Sweetie-licious Bakery Cafe has been recognized as one of the top pie makers in the country. So far, they have won 2009, 2008, and 2007 Crisco National pie Championship 1st place awards. In addition to that, they won $5,000 Best of Show prize on the Food Network's Pie Challenge, in 2009 for Tom’s Cheery Cherry Cherry Berry Pie. In 2008, their Key Lime Raspberry Pie won 1st place on the Food Network Pie Challenge.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to meet in person with the famous Linda Hundt, owner of Sweetie-licious. Linda is known for her 50s-style dresses and aprons, her pearl necklaces and her pearls of "pie wisdom" including her mantra "Eat Pie, Love Life"! ... However, her sweet and friendly staffs were just wonderful! They made sure of great services and warm welcome for the customers..

Two of Sweetie-licious pies are featured in the September issue of Midwest Living magazine.

It was a very beautiful day -- to visit the town of DeWitt (without soccer event involved), to also get together with my fellow soccer moms and the boys, ... and to have great pies. I will definitely be back!

Thanks for your hospitality, DeWitt families :)

Sweetie-licious Pie Pantry:
108 N. Bridge St.
Dewitt, MI 48820
(517) 669-9300

Tuesday, September 1

Weekend Desserts

Going to a little get-together on Sunday...,

I made some brownies for the teenagers.

And I also...

made a key lime pie for the adults.

There was a bonfire,
and of course..
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