Saturday, November 28


Hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving!
I did :)

We went to Beth & Joe's. It was great to be around good friends,
meeting people, and making new friends...
Turkey was very nice - good job Beth :)
Every dish was wonderful & so delicious!

We had a great time...
eating LOTS of food, drinking nice wines, laughing, talking, playing card games,
& sharing stories...

Heavenly deserts!
Pumpkin pies, French apple tart, and Butter Finger torte

A little bit of everything..

I am thankful - for my life.. my family.. my friends..,
and .. for waking up being hopeful every morning.


Saturday, November 21

Taste of Michigan: Dinner with the Chefs

After the cooking demonstration/lecture at "Taste of Michigan" Visiting Chef Series, the following evening I also attended its Dinner with the Chef's five-course meal, prepared by all 5 chefs and Kellogg Center's kitchen staffs.

Once everyone was seated, wine was poured and the meal was served. All 135 attendees pretty much filled up the State Room, an on-site, casual fine dining at Kellogg Center. Great ambiance, very nice setting, professional and attentive staff. Each chef came out from the kitchen and talked about their dishes while we were enjoying the great meal.

First course by Chef Brian Polcyn (Forest Grill, Birmingham): Cherry Wood Smoked Trout with an heirloom tomato salad and balsamic reduction. I enjoyed everything I had that evening, but this dish was my most favorite of all. Very very delicious! It was served with Left Foot Charley, Michigan Riesling MD 2008.

Second course by Chef Eve Aronoff (Eve Restaurant, Ann Arbor): Curried Mussels with crusty bread. The flavor of the curry cream sauce was so rich and complex! Loving every single bite of it, I believe I wiped my plate clean with my dinner roll.

Third course by chef Benjamin Meyer (Chen Chow Brasserie, Birmingham): Apple Cider Glazed Salmon with kashi, celeriac puree, pumpkin, pepitas, and apple cider reduction. It was the most perfectly cooked salmon I've ever had! Pumpkin and dried cranberries added texture, sweetness, and creaminess to Kashi. It was savory and sweet altogether. Served with Black Star Farms, Isidor's Choice Vineyard Leelanau Peninsula Chardonnay 2007.

Fourth course by chef Don Yamauchi (MotorCity Casino, Detroit): Grilled Prime Beef Strip Loin with mushrooms, peas, and carrots. The loin was very nice and tender, went really well with the red wine sauce. Served with Three River, Champoux Vineyard Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2004.

Fifth course by chef Patricia Nash (MotorCity Casino, Detroit): French Chocolate Mousse with vanilla bean custard, roasted pineapple, and macadamia nut brittle. Fabulous presentation and flavor combination of every element on the plate.

It's been a while since I last had a meal at the State Room, so it was nice to be there for such an amazing evening of great dinner prepared by 5 award-winning chefs from around mid-Michigan. It was a nice opportunity for us to be able to experience variety of cooking styles by out-of-area chefs without having to travel away from home. And I do hope there is more to come!

Thursday, November 19

Taste of Michigan: Cooking Demonstration

After 11 years and 75 events, the very first chef who kicked off the Visiting Chef Series event, at Michigan State University's Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center, returned to celebrate "A Taste of Michigan", the 75th series. Chef Don Yamauchi was at the time an executive chef at Gordon Restaurant in Chicago. Back in 1998, Gordon Sinclaire of Gordan Restaurant, and MSU's Joel Heberlein, director of the Spartan Hospitality Group for the Division of Residential and Hospitality Services (former general manager for the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center) originated the event. (source: They all seemed to have a great reunion on stage last night.

This 2-day event features 5 award-winning Michigan chefs as they come together to share their cooking techniques at the cooking demonstration on the first night of the event. Last night, it was a lecture/demo of a five-course meal with samplings of each course served to all attendees. There were also 3 wines served to accompany those delicious food.

We started off with Chef Benjamin Meyer's Spring Roll: with poached free range chicken breast, assorted vegetables, seasonings, herbs, served with Thai sweet chili sauce with coconut cream. The roll was very refreshing with layers of texture and flavor. The sauce delivered the flavorful creaminess using coconut cream as opposed to mayonnaise.

Then, we had Chef Don Yamauchi's Pumpkin Soup with Vanilla Cream. The soup was heavenly silky and creamy! Chef Yamauchi also showed us how to make fresh butter right there on stage. We all agreed the homemade butter was just amazing. The soup and bread were served with Gill's Pier Leelanau Peninsula Riesling 2007.

Next, we had Chef Brian Polcyn's Chicken Galantine. We watched him remove the skin and bone the whole bird. He was a lot of fun! Chicken breast was warpped around by chopped chicken meat, then poached. Served with apricot and dried cherry chutney.

The Galantine was very delicious, and well worth all the work. It was served with Black Star Farm Arcturos Capella Vineyards Old Mission Peninsula Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2007.

Next, we had Chef Eve Aronoff's Aromatic Lamb in Brik Pastry, with a salad of fresh spinach and mint. Sweet, savory, and spicy ground lamb with pine nuts and golden raisins rolled in light and crispy brik pastry. I love the flavor of Moroccan spice with the lamb, and the texture of pine nuts and raisin when biting through the golden brown pastry. It was served with Cimicky Trumps Barossa Valley Shiraz 2007/2008.

Lastly, we had Chef Patricia Nash's Peanut Butter Bar with caramelized bananas and chocolate peanut butter ice cream. It was a perfect ending to an evening of culinary instruction and entertainment. All I could hear in the room, after the first bites of this gorgeous-looking dessert were taken was more like, "yum!, "ummmm", "wow..!", "oh, my". It was rich, decadent, and delightful.

From left to right:
Chef Brian Polcyn (Forest Grill, Birmingham, MI)
Chef Eve Aronoff (Eve Restaurant, Ann Arbor, MI)
Pastry Chef Patricia Nash (MotorCity Casino, Detroit, MI)
Chef Don Yamauchi (MotorCity Casino, Detroit, MI)
Chef Benjamin Meyer (Chen Chow Brasserie, Birmingham, MI).

I had a fabulous evening. My friend L was there with me. To be there at such an event, surrounded by food lovers, foodies, chefs, cooks, culinary students, and all attendees - was a great experience! There were lots of laughter and joy. I can't wait for another evening to finish of this event - a five-course dinner prepared by these chefs, and served with wine pairings. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 16

Grand Rapids Int'l Wine & Food Festival

I had a really nice drive on a beautiful Saturday to Grand Rapids this past weekend. It was the last day of the 3-day 2nd Annual Grand Rapids International Wine & Food Festival. The event was held in the elegance of 40,000-square-foot Steelcase Ballroom at DeVos Place. It was a great time for this pre-holiday show featuring a culinary celebration of the year, pairing the city’s finest restaurants with vintners from Michigan and throughout the world.

The admission was $15, and attendees could purchase a tasting tickets for sampling foods, wines, beers, and spirits. There were more than 1,000 wines being poured at this event, it wasn't easy at all deciding which ones to go for :)

I had a few samplings of foods and wines. Robert Mondavi is always one of my favorite, so I didn't miss visiting the booth for a tasting of his Cabernet Sauvignon. The trio-dessert from Meijer booth was scrumptious. There were chocolate molten cake, eclair, and keylime cream puff. Then, there was an amazing Steak Crostini, with Gorgonzola and balsamic reduction, from the latest eatery in town - Wild Fire Grille.

Gilly's @ the B.O.B. offered the samplings of quite a few selections. I had Tamarind Shrimp Pad Thai, served up in a lovely take-out box. It wasn't quite Pad Thai that I know, but it was tasty. They also had Mini Dark Chocolate Caramel Tartlets, and Vanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta.

Bistro Bella Vita featured some of their soups and appetizers that I didn't get a chance to try. There were lots of food! Stone House Bakery in Leland was there at the Riverfront Market area, giving out free samples of their fresh baked artisan breads.

And then, there was San Chez: A Tapas Bistro which I've just visited the restaurant recently.

Beautiful mixed nuts from Ferris Coffee & Nuts.

Event attendees looking to enhance their festival experience can partake in one of four “Pairing” bar-top seatings. New this year is the introduction of a beer pairing dinner, to compliment the three wine pairings offered. I was pretty bummed that the only opening that would have worked out for my timing was the beer pairing dinner. I am not doing so well with beer, and would rather experience the wine pairing one.., so I missed an opportunity to participate. Above photo is the pairing offered by Six-One-Six at JW Marriott.

Pairing by Bar Divani

Pairing by Tre Cugini

First time to DeVos Place, I really enjoyed my visit to this beautiful state-of-the-art convention center located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. I sure will be looking forward to more of great events there, and an opportunity to go back soon.

Tuesday, November 10

Pumpkin Curry with Beef & Thai Basil

I am still in the mood of loving Fall. Keep seeing the charm of Kabocha Squash, or Japanese Pumpkin, at the Oriental Market... Finally, I decided to cook with it again, though I just made Thai Pumpkin Custard last week.

This dish is basically a Thai red curry dish that I use Japanese pumpkin as the main ingredient. Beef is my choice of meat in the dish for I grew up always having beef in this pumpkin red curry - cooked either by my mom's or restaurant's'. However, I can see tofu, fried or soft, would work out great as well.

You will need:

1 can (4 oz.) Red Curry paste (I prefer Mae Sri brand)
1 can (14 oz.) Coconut milk (Chao Kao or Aroy-D brand)
1-1 1/2 lbs. Chuck Eye steaks, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 Medium-size Japanese Pumpkin (also called Kabocha Squash), cut into chunks
1 TBSP palm sugar
1 TBSP Thai fish sauce (Nam Pla)
1 cup water
1 cup loosely packed FRESH Thai basil leaves
1 Jalapeno pepper, cut into thin strips (optional - to add heat)


1. Fry Red Curry paste in 1/2 can of coconut milk, in a pot until fragrant, using medium-high heat. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn - until it is fragrant and becomes oily, about 3 minutes.
2. Add beef slices. Stir until mixed well with curry sauce and beef is almost cooked through.
3. Add the rest of coconut milk and pumpkin chunks. Then, add water then bring it to a boil.
4. Lower the heat to medium low, and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until the beef is tender, and pumkin is soft but not mushy.
5. Add palm sugar and fish sauce. Stir well. Adjust the flavor to your taste. The sauce shouldn't be runny, nor too thick. You can add some water if it gets too thick.
6. Finally, add Thai basil leaves (and Jalapeno pepper strips), and turn the heat off right away. That way the leaves still maintain their bright green color. Serve with steamed rice, or whatever you like :)

It's such a gorgeous dish. The color is so beautiful, it will brighten up your meal. The creamy texture of cooked pumpkin goes wonderfully with the rich, complex, and spicy red curry sauce. The aroma of fresh Thai basil is just the perfect element to bring everything together.

Sunday, November 8

San Chez A Tapas Bistro

When we were in Grand Rapids on the Halloween weekend with my friends and the boys, we went to San Chez for a great dinner. Located just a block from Van Andel Arena on Fulton street, San Chez is an authentic Spanish tapas bistro that has been well recognized by food lovers from everywhere.

It is known to be one of the hippest places on Grand Rapids' downtown restaurant scene, besides being the first tapas restaurant there. The atmosphere is very unique, and fun. I find the food and service are excellent.

Our group had total of 9 people so we got to try quite a few items. It's definitely a fun place to go as a group. Sharing the small plates of delicious food is quite a dining experience.

Some of the food we had...

Pollo y Curry: Curried chicken salad, fresh grapes, mango chutney, red onion, organic greens
Plan a la Plancha: Grilled baguette, tomato & garlic rub, olive oil
Patatas Bravas: Fried potatoes with alioli and spicy tomato sauce
Fritos de Arroz: Bacon-shrimp-saffron rice fritters, herb alioli
Salmon con Hierbas: Wild-caught salmon fillet, served medium, pesto bravas, spinach, roasted red peppers, sherry vinegar
Alubias Negras: Black beans, white rice, habanero salsa

Pitcher of red sangria: Wine, citrus juices, and a touch of brandy
Bistec con Pimienta:
Pepper beef flank steak, grilled medium, tortellini, manchego cream

San Chez A Tapas Bistro:
38 W Fulton St.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
(616) 774-8272

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