Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eating my way through Chicago - Al's Italian Beef!!!

Finally the day has come, the day I ate my first Al's Italian beef sandwich. What is an Italian Beef sandwich you may ask? Salty, juicy, heaven.

Even though "Italian" is in the name of the sandwich, don't think of this as anything authentic. Just like you wouldn't really find "teriyaki" in Japan, you probably wouldn't find one of these delicious sandwiches in Italy, however their American descendants perfected both.

My craving for an Al's Italian Beef sandwich first started from all of my time watching Food Network with Emi. Al's has been on multiple "versus" types of food shows, where a food personality will pit two similar restaurants against each other to determine the ultimate winner. For example in North Carolina, two BBQ places would compete against each other and in Chicago it's deep dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches.

Since most of my team is located in Chicago, I make it out there quite a bit, but have never had time for an Italian beef sandwich. My buddy Dave made sure I could finally knock this off my list of things to do. I had high expectations for this sandwich and thought I could finally get over my small "obsession" with Italian beef sandwiches, but I want them even more now.

Look at all of those well deserved awards!

Now this is key, the chopped up slow cooked meat is on the left and soaking in the delicious sauce. You have two options when you order your sandwich, dry or wet. Wet is the only way to go. If you order it wet, they take your sandwich with those tongs and actually submerge it, not dip it, but submerge it in that bath of delicious meat sauce on the right. Now you might think the hoagie might fall apart, but the bread actually holds up really well.

Best sandwich ever... Biting into that sweet, yet spicy, salty sandwich was amazing. You could see the chopped meat, pepper flakes, some celery, the hot and sweet peppers, and the dripping, marbled, oily sauce in the sandwich. Each bite squeezed the jus down my hand.
My buddy Dave also suggested I knock another Chicago culinary delight off of my list; the Chicago style hot dog. It was a poppyseed bun, with a tomato, mustard, sweet pickle, relish, and mustard (no ketchup!). I thought it would be too much to eat both, but they were both amazing and consumed in under five minutes.

The aftermath. Look at that delicious sauce on the left. Immediately after finishing the "best sandwich ever" I wanted another one. I'm still thinking of it to this day, two weeks later. I know this will become a tradition for everytime I go to Chicago and for everyone else planning a future trip out to Chicago, skip the deep dish and head to Al's.
- Kyle

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Truffle and Chantrelle Pizza and Italian Wine Tasting

Reason #101 why we love our kitchen; the new convection oven! We used to attempt to make pizza in our old kitchen, but it never came out right. With a few new changes, our pizza has never been better. Hate to sound full of ourselves, but our kids (one day) will be eating some great homemade pizza!

The key for us is to use the convection oven, a pizza stone (I bought from Crate and Barrel for Emi), frozen pizza dough from Central Market, and parchment paper (great tip from Carol).

We wanted to splurge a little for Emi's aunt and uncle who were in town from Hawaii and bought some black truffles for our pizza. $248 a pound! However we only needed a little bit.

The black truffles didn't end up being all that flavorful because in hindsight we think they may have been a little old and dried out. A few weeks later we bought some white truffles from Central Market and they almost knocked me out with their overpowering scent. Now I know how they should have smelled. We love truffle anything, but had never had fresh truffles.

Emi bought some amazing truffle cheese from Trader Joe's that she shredded and mixed with mozzarella to top the pizza. She also sauteed some fresh, wild chantrelles in olive oil and garlic to top the pizza. After cooking the pizza in the oven we thinly sliced the truffle over the pizza. One of the best pizzas ever and when we duplicated it a few weeks later with the white truffles, even better.

We also sampled Emi's uncles favorite wine, the Trader Joe's Barolo. I don't think it's TJ brand, but he's only ever found this great Italian wine there. We ended up bringing two bottles with us as an Xmas gift on this most recent trip out to Hawaii. Highly recommended wine that complemented our pizza perfectly. Only tip is to let is breathe a solid 15 minutes or so before you start to enjoy it.

- Kyle

Monday, December 27, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Pork Belly and Brussles Sprouts

Last year around Christmas we went to Serious Pie for our friend Calvin's birthday. You can check out that blog post here. Since that time, I have been on an elusive quest to recreate the amazing pork belly and Brussels sprouts appetizer we enjoyed. The problem with pork belly is that you have to cook it just right, otherwise it can turn rubbery or the fat might not render enough and it can remain fatty and soft. The best pork belly has crispy skin and soft, tender meat. There is little to no chewy fat as the meat has been essentially braised in its own fat as it cooks.

I tried about a dozen recipes over the year, and have finally pieced together a couple of recipes to recreate that amazing dish. The pork belly recipe is adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe I found on the Internet. The Brussels sprouts have been adapted over the last year after many trial and errors.

I shared the last version with my favorite food Ginni pigs the other week when the guys came over to once again celebrate Calvin's birthday. Here is my belated Christmas and New Year's present to you all: one of my all time favorite dishes, finally perfected! Let me know if you make it and how it turns out--I am always excited to improve on perfection!

Pork Belly:
  • 1.5-2 lbs Pork Belly (you can find this cut of meat in the meat freezer section of Central Market in Seattle or ask your local butcher)
  • Plenty of kosher or sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 carrots, peeled and halved length wise
  • 2 celery stalks, cut in half
  • 2 red or sweet onions, halved
  • 1 garlic bulb, broken into cloves with the skin on
  • 2 cups of chicken stock or water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Score the skin side of the pork belly with a sharp knife with cuts about a centimeter apart, cutting through the skin but not to the meat portion of the belly. Rub salt and pepper into skin, getting it in between the scores in the skin and all over the rest of the meat. Put in oven for 30 minutes until the skin starts to puff and "crackle." Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and roast for another hour. Take the pan out of the oven and baste the meat with the fat and juices that have rendered out of the meat. Set the meat on a cutting board and add the vegetables to the pan, making sure they are tossed and coated in the fat drippings. Place the pork on top of the veggies and put back in the oven for an hour.

Take the pork out of the oven and place the meat to the side, covering with aluminum foil. Place the pan with the veggies and juices on the stove top at about medium heat and add the chicken stock or water. Bring it to a boil and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, creating a nice dark brown gravy. Let it simmer and reduce for a couple of minutes. Pour the gravy through a sieve into the serving dish, pushing the delicious flavors of the veggies through. Chop up the pork belly and add to the gravy.

Brussels Sprouts:
  • 1 bag brussels sprouts
  • 1 Shallot, chopped finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
Core and quarter Brussels sprouts (this can take some time, so I always like having my handy dandy Suez chef, Kyle!). Heat a large skillet or pan over med-high heat and add olive oil. Once hot, add the shallots and caramelize until shallots begin to soften and brown a bit. Add the minced garlic and once it starts to brown (almost immediately) add the Brussels sprouts and saute, adding salt and pepper to taste. When the Brussels sprouts have browned a bit (about a minute) add the chicken stock and let simmer until sprouts have absorbed most of the liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the Brussels sprouts with the gravy and pork belly and serve immediately.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Happy Eating,

Friday, December 24, 2010

Our Sunday Trip to Esquin: Last minute Xmas Present Solutions

Hohoho...MERRY CHRISTMAS! What better gift for the food and wine lover than a good ol' bottle of vino? That's what Kyle and I thought the other week when we found a couple extra hours on a lazy Sunday afternoon. We headed to our favorite wine shop, Esquin Wine Merchants, in Sodo and spent over an hour perusing through countless rows of fabulous wines, buying "gifts" for...ourselves!

One of our best friends, Becca and Lowell, turned us on to this great Seattle wine shop and we have been hooked ever since. My good friend, Carol, and many others have since also recommended Esquin to us!

Kyle likes to catch me in awkward face moments and post these photos on our blog. As you can see, I am very focused on the wine...This is our favorite room, the "back room." AKA the el cheapo sale room where they have great deals on some of the best wines. Also, if you buy a case of 12 bottles (from anywhere in the store) they give you 10% off your bill. That means we have to get 12 bottles every time. Can't pass up a good deal!


As you might have noticed from previous posts, Kyle and I are conducting very rigorous "research" on wines for our upcoming trip to Paris and the Mediterranean next summer. By research, we mean consuming large amounts of French and European wine so we are more aware and educated on what we like and what makes the wines of this region so special. More importantly, we are just enjoying consuming the large amounts of research and the food that we have paired it with!

I picked up this bottle of 2009 La Croix Du Duc Bordeaux. I am a huge sucker for great descriptors for wine that include "incredible deal."

And it truly was an incredible deal. It was bold and smooth, and just the kind of red that I crave with a good, wintery warm meal. Kyle made his Auntie Toyoko's famous short ribs that night which went perfectly with this rich bordeaux.

So whether you are looking for a last minute (or belated) Xmas gifts for a food/wine lover or are just looking for a fun way to spend an hour, check out Esquin Wine Merchants. The people are friendly and unpretentious and help to make wine approachable. They also have a great blog that has given me many great recs! Check it out here.
Kyle and I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Hope you get all you wished for, including good health, happiness and of course, GREAT EATS.
Happy Eating,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Emi's Eats

After blogging for over a year and a half, I have decided to take my eating and writing to the next level and will have my very own food column in 2011 titled, Emi's Eats! The column will appear in the Seattle based newspaper, The North American Post, which serves the Pacific Northwest Japanese American community. My column articles will highlight local Asian American owned and/or operated restaurants along with their favorite recipes and personal stories. I am excited for a new outlet for my creative juices and to counter -balance my corporate day job.

In an attempt to appear tech-savvy and legit, I have started a twitter account. Please follow me at and let me know if you have any suggestions for places to add to my restaurant list!

I want to send out a special thank you to my dear friend and fellow blogger, Kelsey Smith, who inspired Kyle and I to start this blog and made us believe that we have thoughts and ideas worth sharing with the blogging world!

My first article will publish in the January 5 newspaper and will feature one of my favorite restaurants, Hiroshi's in Eastlake and his New Years inspired menu. The article will also be available online, so I will be sure to pass on the link when it is up!

Happy Eating,