Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Eating on the Job - Happy Hour at La Puerta in San Diego

This past Fall I was fortunate enough to get away from the grey and gloom of Seattle to what I thought would be a few warm and sunny days in San Diego. Unfortunately it seemed the weather followed me down south. Even though the weather wasn't as nice as I was hoping, the food in San Diego didn't disappoint.

When I first started to travel for work there was nothing I hated more than eating by myself. Now it has turned into one of my favorite activities. I'll always prefer a companion to share a meal with, but if I can't find one, no worries! The key is finding good food to fill the void. What I'll do is get a recommendation for a great local spot, hopefully in a fun neighborhood, that has great food and a nice happy hour menu. If the bar has a TV with ESPN even better!

For this trip, I checked out La Puerta and it hit every category on my checklist: cool neighborhood (in the Gaslamp District), great happy hour deals and menu (1/2 off aps and drinks), fun atmosphere, football on TV, and most importantly tasty food, in this case Mexican. You can't go to San Diego and not eat Mexican food.

La Puerta has a daily happy hour from 3-7pm. I definitely appreciated the extra hour. I ordered the Cochinita Quesadilla which was made with a slow cooked, marinated pork, mixture of oozing cheeses and served with a sweet sour cream and pico de gallo. Highly recommended, nothing better than a warm quesadilla and margarita for happy hour.

I also ordered their freshly made quacamole with house chips and pico de gallo on the side. The guac also came with Panela cheese. These were not your every day tortilla chips, but were thick and flaky. I wanted to try more, but was stuffed after eating the chips and my quesadilla.

Definitely a fun spot and great recommendation from my hotel concierge. If you're up for great Mexican food, solid drinks, and a fun time, head down to the Gaslamp and grab happy hour at La Puerta.

- Kyle

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Portland "Man Trip"

Recently a group of my friends made a "man trip" down to Portland. What says "man trip" like driving down I-5 to the land of the skinny jeaned, flannel wearing, full service gas station, no sales tax paying Portland hipsters? Well honestly, we didn't go to Portland because of the "manliness" of the city, but rather because it's the closest city with an NBA basketball team. Remember the Sonics and the National Basketball Association? Nope. OK, well for those of you who do remember the NBA, the only way to get in some live action professional basketball is to drive down to Portland.

Besides our craving for some basketball, we also were up to filling up on some delicious Portland grub. Being a "man trip" I made sure to scout out a few hearty food pit stops for us to visit. Last time we made this trip, we were in and out in one night and all regretted it on the drive back, especially our very kind yet exhausted driver Pert. So this time around we decided we would go down early, have the whole day to explore Portland, catch the Blazers game, eat a great late night dinner, sleep it off, and then head back full and refreshed. It ended up being a good plan.

It ended up being a pretty good game that came down to the final shot. My friend's and I are pretty big NBA and fantasy basketball fans, so this trip was extra special for us. Basically I drove three hours to see Wesley Mathews and if you get that reference you probably share my passion for the NBA and want a new team to come to Seattle.

After leaving early in the morning and discussing how everyone in the car loves breakfast foods, we decided to hit up The Stepping Stone Cafe. Emi and I blogged about it the last time we visited Portland. Amazing meal and a great, greasy, filling way to start off our day. My friend Gabe got the cinnamon roll french toast and the "Dilemma" which was described as hashbrowns covered with fresh spinach and Tillamook cheddar cheese. It reminded me of Ann Arbor's "hippy hash".

I also doubled up and got the house made cinnamon roll french toast and the eggs benedict. Not sure why, but I split it with Pert, still regretting that decision. I could have had another plateful. This was one of the best eggs benedicts I have ever had. I order a lot of eggs benedict and these kicked ass. Perfectly poached egg, great flavorful hollandaise, delicious ham, and perfectly toasted English muffin. The potatoes were also amazing, buttery, salty, and a little crunchy, but soft. Again big shout out to my friend Kenny for recommending this place to Emi and I a couple years back.

After wandering around NW 23rd, we checked into the Downtown Portland Embassy Suites. Awesome hotel and great recommendation from Gabe. We were located in The Pearl District and walking distance to Henry's Tavern. Over 100 beers on tap, all you need to say. If you're looking for a wide selection and for some Pacific Northwest beers this is your place. Also for happy hour try their hot dog sliders.

Now back to why we stayed at the Embassy Suites. Free happy hour and free breakfast buffet. Sounds too good to be true, but we proved it to be true. From 4pm-6pm nightly they have free beer, wine, and well drinks for anyone who stays at the hotel. We only had one drink, but definitely a great way to differentiate yourself from other hotels. Also in the morning they had all sorts of breakfast food including an omelet bar. Just make sure to get there early or expect a line.

After the game we had late night reservations for the Gilt Club. I heard about this place from the Food Network. It was known for it's unique dishes and late night menu (they serve dinner until 2am), which was perfect for a group of guys starving after the game. I started off with a Moscow Mule - vodka, house made ginger beer (you could really taste the spicy ginger), lime and ginger zest, and a spritz of soda served in a copper cup.

Sorry for the poor lighting. Gabe took these photos which still turned out really great with his cell phone. On TV the place was well lit and cheery, but when we arrived it was dark and a little fancier than we were expecting it to be. People were dressed in cocktail dresses and suits. Luckily since it was freezing, I didn't sport my B.Roy jersey, would have really stood out.

What did stand out from my recollection of the show was their home made pork rinds. They scrape the fat off of the pork skin and then deep fry them until they expand into wafer rinds. The rinds were served with a lime creme fraiche and house made hot sauce. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed. The rinds were too salty and the "house made" hot sauce tasted like Tabasco with too much vinegar.

However the wild boar poppers were pretty solid. They were served with a house Dijon and red wine fig jam.

The restaurant was nice, not too noisy, not too quiet, warm, and a great place to grab food to end the night, however my biggest complaint was that it was too dark! I now understood how you really do use all of your senses when you enjoy a meal. From the smell of the food, to the taste and texture, but you also need to be able to see it! Honestly this is the first time I've seen what my dish looked like. It just looked like dark blobs. I think I would have appreciated it more if I had known exactly what I was eating.

I ordered the "Quail in a Jar" - cabbage, house cured bacon, foie gras, meat glaze, on bacon liver mousse toast. Above is the bacon liver mousse toast.

Gabe had the waitress pose with the jar for the photo, he knew it would make a cool entry in the blog. Basically they cook everything, quail included, in a small Mason jar, and then dump it out over the toast. This was my first time ever eating quail. Delicious, tender, and delicate, but too small. I could have eaten a whole flock or family of these things. Honestly the dish wasn't that great. I think they were trying a little too hard. Since I couldn't see anything I sort of missed out on the foie gras and house cured bacon. All I tasted was the sweet glaze, cabbage, and liver mousse toast, with some quail... Oh well I'm happy I tried something different and will definitely keep me eyes out for some more quail, I just hope they serve me three of them on a dish next time.

Gabe and Steve opted for the better choice, filling up with a burger. They ordered the Painted Hill ground beef burger with a fancy (Fourme d'Ambert) bleu cheese, pickled beets, thick cut house cured bacon, and greens. Steve let me try his burger, greasy, filling, and half the cost of my quail.

Great trip and something I think we all agreed should be a yearly tradition. I already have a few places in mind for where we should eat next time. Let me know if you have any Portland favorites.

- Kyle

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

French Wine Tasting - French Sparkling Wine and Oysters

After picking up dim sum at T&T, we decided to keep our gluttonous Sunday moving with a trip down to Esquin our favorite wine shop down in SoDo. Emi wanted to go to Central Market afterwards to buy some oysters for dinner, so of course we needed to pick up a bottle of champagne to pair with them!

We went down to Central Market and bought two dozen oysters for ourselves. We bought a dozen Dabob and Sisters Point Oysters. It was our first time trying the Sisters Point oysters.

When perusing the Champagne selection down at Esquin I quickly noticed that any bottle from the Champagne region would cost me at least $40. Veuve, which is high class to me, was on the lower end of the Champagne price points. We asked one of the friendly employees at Esquin for a little bit of help and he highly recommended the selection above. It was grown outside the region, but was still from France. He mentioned that a similar tasting Champagne would have cost at least $35 or $40. We paid much less.

I couldn't put it off any longer; Emi finally forced me to learn how to shuck an oyster... Usually I avoid learning certain tasks like how to clean a razorclam, how to shuck an oyster, how to fold a crane (I've recently been taught to do the first two, but have still avoided learning how to do the last). It's pretty easy to learn, but difficult to efficiently put into practice.

Emi's brussel sprout tree that we picked up at Central Market. This is definitely a seasonal offering, they said the difference between the tree and normal brussel sprouts were that these were usually sweeter, which they were. Just make sure to cut them off the tree first.

Nothing better than fresh, sweet, local grown oysters paired with some bubbly to end a long week.

Another attempt at brussel sprouts with pancetta. A little too salty, but with each attempt Emi was getting closer and closer until her most recent attempt, which I think is really good.

Our babushka Buster

Another fun foodie Sunday spent together.
- Kyle

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Emi's Eats: Behind the Scenes at Hiroshi's

My first column article published this week in the North American Post. I had spent much time agonizing over what my angle would be. All I knew was that I wanted to go with a restaurant that I knew was good and that is actively involved in our community. Naturally, I went with Hiroshi's which has been one of my favorites for many years and a restaurant I have blogged about before.

As I take on this new adventure, there are a couple of distinct challenges I have realized I will face that I do not face with blogging.

#1: I now have deadlines. Writing for me is an organic experience and comes best when I have time and a good glass of wine. I am having flashbacks to writing mid term papers at 10PM the night before they are due. I am finding that one month can pass by quickly and my deadline can approach like a swell of waves where once one hits, the next can come quickly behind to wash over you, one after another...

#2: Fact checking. As much as Kyle and I like to think everything we say or write about is 100% fact, I realize there is so much opinion and bias to what we write about in our blog. Putting your thoughts in black and white print forces you to really think about what you write and make sure if it is not your opinion, that there is solid fact checking to back your claims.

#3: Word count. I haven't even gotten to my first article or any interesting facts about Hiroshi's, and I have already written a novel. I obviously need to work on the concept of "less is more." I have 500-800 words per article and found it very difficult to filter all my thoughts in a short article. Back to my mid-term paper flashbacks: I used to spend hours re-formatting papers with larger font, larger margins, adding in superlative words to make my paper reach the magic page number requirement; now I am having the opposite problem, struggling for hours to edit it down.

However, in the end, I am finding the whole experience, challenges and all, exciting and invigorating! It is so fun to have this new outlet and the best part about it is I am learning so much more about my favorite restaurants and our wonderful Seattle community. Plus, I have also found that my fabulous food-fanatic husband and marketing extraordinaire, is the best partner in crime and gives me inspiration and ideas for future articles. I couldn't ask for a better supporter. His only request is that I thank him in my future book--I think this blog may be the closest we will come to that...THANK YOU HUSBAND!

So here we go with the first article. My goal was to discuss osechi ryori (traditional Japanese New Year's food) and restaurants that serve it. I hit the writers gold mine by starting with Hiroshi's because I found out through research that he is really the only restaurant that serves osechi and is open on New Years. Kyle and I had a fabulous lunch at the sushi bar and spoke with Hiroshi for hours about his food, family, career and New Year's traditions. He even took the time to show us how he makes one of his osechi dishes, shrimp balls. The above picture is of him making the shrimp, which I included in the article.

In addition to what is included in the article, we found out that other than food, Hiroshi has a deep passion for travel and adventure. He first traveled on his own when he was 9 years old (obviously a different time and a different place, Japan is much safer than the US!) and once he was 18, backpacked through 35 countries including Russia, China, Europe and Southeast Asia. He finally decided he had to settle down and work, and trained under a sushi master chef in Japan. Then, a customer who did business in Seattle suggested that he come to Seattle and open a restaurant so he could eat Hiroshi's food when he did his business travel. Hiroshi obliged and the rest is history.

Hiroshi does a lot for the Seattle Japanese American community. He recently was the on-site caterer for the filming of a Japanese mini-series on the WWII internment of Japanese Americans. I could go on for many more pages, but let's just go with the article. Thanks for putting up with my babbling!

Emi’s Eats: Osechi Ryori

I associate my childhood New Year’s celebrations with being forced to eat one kuromame (sweet black bean) for good health and one morsel of each carefully prepared nishime ingredient for good luck. These foods are the same symbols and traditions that many of us in the Japanese American community share year in and year out.
As a young food lover, this was not my favorite holiday because I often left the New Year’s parties unsatisfied and still hungry. However, as I get older, I have acquired a love and respect for osechi ryori (traditional Japanese New Year’s dishes) not only because my palate has refined since those Kraft-macaroni-and-cheese-loving-days, but also because of the amount of time and care that goes into making each and every one of the dozens of dishes that are a part of our Japanese American community Oshogatsu celebrations.

After a fabulous lunch at one of my favorite local spots, Hiroshi’s (2501 Eastlake Ave. E., Seattle 98102, 206-726-4966), I sat down with the chef and owner, Hiroshi Egashira, to discuss his Oshogatsu food traditions and New Year’s restaurant offerings.

While most other Japanese restaurants close over the New Year, Hiroshi’s remains open and serves up traditional osechi to those of us who do not have a skilled Obaachan (grandmother) to make the meal for us. While we speak of “traditional” Japanese foods, we see in Hiroshi's example that osechi foods vary infinitely because of the makers' artistry, creativity, and tastes.

Over three days, Hiroshi and his staff labor over each dish, even working through the night. I came in on December 30 and Hiroshi told me he would be lucky to get two hours of sleep that night as he worked to finish the last dishes. While he has several cooks who help him with the preparation, he alone crafts each dish since there is no exact recipe. Rather, Hiroshi uses his instincts and feelings to produce some of the best osechi in town; instincts he learned beginning at age three from his mother when he helped her prepare for Oshogatsu.
I watched as he prepared one of his osechi specialties, shrimp balls. Egg yolks and salt are blended in a food processor and are emulsified with oil to create a smooth mayonnaise type of binding agent; Hiroshi says it helps give the shrimp a richer flavor with more umami. After setting this mixture to the side, he blends one hundred deveined shrimp in the food processor with salt and mixes the shrimp with the mayonnaise. Mixing chopped onions and potato starch with white pepper, he carefully rolls his shrimp and mayonnaise through the starchy white powder to form little ornament-sized balls that look like snow balls you could hang from a Christmas tree. Instead, he deep fries the shrimp balls and out they come, perfectly golden with an aroma so delectable that there is little chance you would let it sit uneaten in a beautiful bento box, let alone hang it on your tree. The end result is a truly satisfying Japanese-style meatball that packs in great shrimp flavor with a slightly spongy and surprisingly light texture.

Hiroshi's shrimp balls, golden and delicious.

Watching Hiroshi make just one dish left me feeling exhausted, and I know there are dozens more still to be made. This is part of the reason he told me he has never thought of New Year’s as a “holiday.” It is work, made worthwhile because of his over three hundred loyal customers who order his famed osechi every year and feast gratefully, appreciating the fact that someone else labored to make their traditional fare. Meanwhile, on January 2, you will find Hiroshi catching up on some much needed rest on one of his few days off before jumping into another busy year.
What are your New Year’s family traditions and eats? Share them with me at twitter.com/EmisEats or Emiseats@napost.com.

Happy Eating,

Recipe of the Week: Cooking with Jamie Oliver

Emi hit up the library again to find some new cookbooks for us to peruse. One of the books she picked up was Happy Days with the Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver. I haven't had a chance to go through it yet, but did try one of the recipes Emi picked out. It was super easy. I'm talking easier than a crockpot easy. So for any one out there in need of a simple and easy, yet tasty meal this one is for you.

The recipe was called Chicken Breast Baked in a Bag with Mushrooms, Butter, White Wine, and Thyme. I changed it up a little.

What you'll need:
  • 4 - chicken thighs or you could do 2 chicken breasts, I prefer thighs
  • 1 handful of dried porcini (didn't have these and it still came out great)
  • solid amount of mushrooms torn up, I used crimini (some chopped, some whole) and one chopped up portabello mushroom. If you can find them I would use chantrelles.
  • 1 large wineglass of white wine - I used a chardonnay, but I'm sure anything on hand works
  • 3 large pats of butter - I used 3 chunks of Emi's homemade truffle butter
  • 1 handful of fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 shallot diced - not in the original recipe, but was a good addition
  • salt and pepper
  1. Using aluminum foil, make your bag by placing 2 pieces on top of each other (about as big as 2 shoeboxes in length), folding 3 sides in and leaving 1 side open. I added a third piece in the end to make sure it was fully sealed.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  3. This is optional, but I think would create a crust and seal in a better flavor. I didn't do this, but will next time. Salt and pepper the chicken generously and heat a pan on medium high heat with 1 T of olive oil. Once hot, brown the chicken skin side down for maybe 3 minutes at the most.
  4. Then mix everything together in a bowl and place in the bag with all the wine, making sure you don't pierce the foil.
  5. Close up the final edge, making sure the bag is tightly sealed and secure on all sides, place into a roasting pan.
  6. If cooking chicken breast, I wouldn't recommend browning the meat and only cook it for 25 minutes. With a bone in chicken thigh, which I cooked, you'll need about 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and place on a big plate. Break open the foil and serve.
  8. Jamie said you could vary the recipe with grated parsnip, smoked bacon, and red wine.

Before I sealed everything up. In the end the mushrooms were the highlight of the dish. They soaked up the butter, thyme, and wine beautifully. Make sure you don't skimp on the mushrooms.

The finished product. This photo doesn't really do this dish justice. It was super easy and very flavorful. The only thing lacking was a little bit of salt and pepper, which I added in after, however I think if I brown the chicken in advance that might help a little.

This was a great recipe because the ingredients were simple and the steps to making it were simple. All you need is chicken, some white wine, mushrooms, butter, garlic, and thyme. I can't wait to try a variation of this dish with something different like fish.

I'm looking forward to reading through the rest of this book. The recipe seemed pretty healthy and I'm interested to see what else he has to offer. Random side note, but I just read the back of the book and at the time he wrote this he was only 26. Pretty impressive all that he had accomplished at still a very young age. By the way thanks Carmen and Jamie for getting me interested in learning more about Jamie Oliver!

- Kyle

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thanks Living Social!

We recently blogged about a first class Korean BBQ dinner we enjoyed at Kaya. The reason we went there was because we found a really great Living Social deal, $45 for $90 of delicious Korean BBQ. You can read more about our great meal here.

This deal has turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. After our post went out someone from Living Social actually reached out to us to thank us for posting about our fun experience. Little did they know that we only have 18 followers :).... They asked for me to send them our mailing address and that a gift would be sent to us.

This was our first Christmas gift of the year and a perfect present for us and our food blog!

A shiny, red Living Social recipe holder! Even though we cook a lot, we don't really have a recipe holder so this was a really cool, needed gift.

We can't wait to start loading up our new recipe holder with some delicious new dishes. Also as you can see, a few new ones came with it as well, looking forward to trying out the Secret Santa-gria!
Also for those of you not signed up for Living Social, we highly recommend it. We actually just bought another Kaya deal and they always have great spa specials as well.
Happy holidays!
- Kyle and Emi

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka: 12th Street Bistro

As you can tell by our many posts on Hawaii, we did not starve while in the islands. Thank goodness it was pouring buckets while we were there so unfortunately there were no opportunities to show off my growing pot belly towards the end of the trip.

On our last night, we went to dinner with Karli and Aaron at one of their favorite local restaurants, 12th Ave Grill in Kaimuki. While we normally gorge ourselves on "local" food like you've seen in previous posts, this was a unique experience for us because we got to indulge in delicious bistro food with a local Hawaiian twist.

Like many restaurants in the mainland, 12th Ave Grill boasts local produce and meat. Some random fun facts about local produce: I found out that my mom's cousins are the managers of the Hawaii Farmer's Markets and offered to give Kyle and I "VIP" parking at a local farmer's market next time we are in Hawaii along with a tour! Also, my Uncle Dave is featured in a TV ad in Hawaii that endorses eating locally grown produce like our Sumida Watercress.


MMM...Kyle and my weakness...mac and cheese...This mac and cheese was truly unique with a smokey flavor that made the dish extra rich and complex. We shared it as an appetizer, but I think I could have ate two orders all by myself.

Karli and Kyle got the BBQ Maui Cattle Co. Short Ribs that were fall-off-the-bone tender. The beef sat on a lovely pillow of corn and smashed potatoes with honey butter. The true highlight of the dish was the mustard greens sauteed with bacon and onions which were addictive with their savory buttery flavor.


Aaron got the skirt steak with rosemary roasted new potatoes and topped with garlic and local marrow butter. He loved it, but said that the previous season's menu that included a kim chee steak was his all time favorite dish. He was so disappointed that they had switched out this dish that he emailed the owner! However, they did not add it back to the menu yet. Here is  our public plee: BRING IT BACK!

I decided to go light and only get the special salad of the day with local greens and fresh tomatoes.

Just kidding! That would be crazy. I of course paired that salad with a big old lobster pot pie! One of my favorite comfort foods (second to mac and cheese) is chicken pot pie. I couldn't resist this perfect combination of two favorites: pot pie + LOBSTER!

I swear they had a whole lobster chopped up in this butter pastry! Look at that huge chunk of lobster claw. Ahhh, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is my heaven. 

We shared this black bottom creme brulee that was absolute love and perfection in the form of a silky rich pot of cream and sugar. The chocolate bottom added the perfect bitter-sweet addition needed to balance out the sweet custard.

We also shared the seasonal fruit crisp which was a pear crisp. It must not be Hawaii seasonal, because I know there are no pears in Oahu! The ice cream was an add on, but Kyle said it should be an automatic. It really balanced out the crisp by adding sweetness since the crisp itself was not too sweet. The pears were al dente, not too mushy or overly saturated with syrup.

Kyle and I had so much fun in Hawaii and look forward to returning soon...just not too soon since I need to work off the meals we ate for several more months. Ironically, I am watching Biggest Loser right now and the guilt is settling in!

Happy Eating,

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mele Kalikimaka Part 3 – Rainbow Drive In and Dave’s Ice Cream

Having never been to Rainbow Drive In before, Emi’s cousin, Karli took us there for lunch on one of our last days in Hawaii.

Look at the descriptions of all of those amazing Hawaiian favorites.

We definitely ordered enough food for probably six, even though there were only three of us. Emi ordered the side loco moco with the egg sunny side up. The gravy was the highlight of the dish. The patty was solid with onions mixed into it. Not the best loco moco I've had, but satisfying.

Probably my favorite dish was the pork long rice. I only wish they had served it with more sauce so that it could have soaked into the rice.

My half a fried chicken and French fries. Well cooked, juicy, but unfortunately surprisingly under salted and under seasoned. A little disappointed, but I’m happy I tried it. Next time I’m ordering the hot dogs with chili. I saw a local looking guy order it and it sounded like he ordered it every day and it looked delicious.

My Barq’s (only Barq’s and A&W are acceptable) root beer float with good “cheap” ice cream that turned icy for me.

After shopping at Ala Moana we worked up a hunger for some ice cream and found one in the basement of Sears. Emi and I love Dave’s. We wish Dave’s and Baldwin’s would open up a franchise in Seattle so that we could enjoy their delicious frozen treats more than once a year.

I ordered my two favorites; guava and lychee sorbet. I swear the guava has pulp in it and tastes like a frozen guava juice and the lychee sorbet has real lychee chunks in it.

Emi ordered the lychee sorbet and the coconut macadamia nut ice cream.

As you can see we packed in a lot of food during our short trip. Don't worry our trip through Hawaii isn't over yet. Next up are two posts related to family dinners with Emi's family.

- Kyle

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our Sumida Family Reunion and Xmas Feast

If there is ever a time in the future when I doubt if I am related to my family, I will think back to this magical day when my family was reunited and ate 'til we were stuffed like a Christmas goose. Maybe it was the fact that my father and his siblings grew up on our family watercress farm and were surrounded by boundless bunches of fresh island greens; maybe it was my Grandma Sumida who I hear was one of the best cooks; maybe it's just in our blood. Whatever the reason, all I know is that our family can eat, and love to do it, too. Our Christmas celebration was full of fun and reminiscing, along with endless platters of mouth-watering food.

This is a fresh Opakapaka that my Uncle Matt caught. My dad sliced it up so we could eat it sashimi (raw) style on a bed of our family watercress.

In recent years, my dad has become the Christmas Goose King. We used to eat roast beef or turkey; but when my dad decided to make goose one year, we were surprised to find how simple, delicious and...Christmas-like it tasted. It has been a staple ever since.

I wanted to make my new favorite recipe of pork belly and Brussels sprouts, but go figure, the whole island was sold out of Brussels sprouts. The local butcher also said that they do not typically sell pork belly so he had to make a special order for us. The pork belly made a yummy side dish by itself.

My Uncle Sunny spent the whole afternoon roasting this delectable prime rib in a Weber BBQ. The meat was juicy, tender and smokey; a really unique and tasty surprise to my taste buds and a great twist on a traditional Christmas classic.

My mom and I tag teamed on this watercress salad that was topped with candied pecans, pears, and Gorgonzola and tossed with a homemade lemon vinaigrette. For those of you who have never tasted watercress, it resembles arugula in flavor, but is so much better, especially if you are talking about Sumida Watercress.

My Uncle Dave made this tender shoyu (soy sauce) pork that was the perfect amount of salty and slightly sweet.

Uncle Dave also made those lovely ornament looking watercress pesto stuffed mushrooms (another fabulous way to use watercress!) and a Portuguese sausage tart.

My Auntie Barb made this savory cauliflower casserole that had a great crunch--I just recently got into cooking cauliflower, and will have to add this to my armamentarium.

Slicing up that Christmas goose...gobble gobble! Oops, that is a turkey sound.

This was one of our appetizers, but we also ended up having a second round as a night cap after we had rested for a bit and drank more wine. My dad brought fois gras, balsamic jelly and truffle oil from Seattle. He sauteed the fois gras and topped it on a toasted baguette with a bit of balsamic jelly and truffle oil. It was absolute heaven.

Uncle Dave photoshopped this image. The top photo was taken at Christmas in 1994 and is a family classic; we tried to recreate it, but my baby cousin Anna said she wouldn't sit on cousin Nicky's lap, and my cousin Marika wasn't feeling the "Elvira" like hug this time around. We all now live around the country: Marika in San Francisco for art school, Nicky working in Brooklyn, Matty working in LA, me in Seattle. Kelsey, a new-graduate nurse at Queen's Hospital, and Anna, who is finishing up her senior year of high school, are the only ones left in the islands.

It is rare to get the whole gang back together and I was so happy to spend this food filled evening with my Sumida family. My Auntie Charlotte, who lives in Paris, was missing from our reunion. However, we will reunite with her when we visit Paris next year!

Meanwhile, Kyle and my dad went into a food coma.
Hope you all had a wonderful holidays and a Happy New Year!
Happy Eating,