“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.
In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
― Julia Child
I just finished reading Julie and Julia and I’m going through another cycle of Julia Child Obsession. I like her approach to cooking. and life. And with that thought in mind, I cooked fettucini alfredo tonight. I burnt the whole thing. What-the-hell.
Just over here in my pajamas at noon in Dallas, Texas. Don’t be jealous. While I wait for my friend to get off work, I’m pondering all the wonderful things I can do in this major U.S. city. Here are my options:
1. The classy me tells me I should take advantage of the culture here and visit the Dallas Contemporary. This would involve getting off the couch and putting on proper clothes but the end result would surely lead to a happy, inspiring day.
2. The hungry me tells me that art and culture is stupid, that I should stay in my pajamas and bake Paula Deen’s Chocolate Pecan Pie. Also, I’m engaging in buttery culinary ART without leaving the house. RIGHT?
3. The current me is sitting in front of a 70 inch TV (wowzers) and watching the Olympics (with occasional channel flipping to watch Super Nanny). By not leaving the couch, I’m engaging in the biggest cultural event in the world!
What to do? Life is so hard.
I heading off to the wonderful magical land called Italy today. Where pastas are fresh, olive oil is abundant, and espressos will keep me whacked out and amped up at all hours of the day. I love Italy. To prepare for this trip, I’ve been religiously watching a cooking/travel show on the BBC called Two Greedy Italians. They are chefs who have been living abroad for decades and have now come back to Italy to hug their mamas and rediscover the Italian cuisine. These guys crack me up, they have no shame in their complete obsession with food. They preach to sophisticated young Italian ladies about getting back in the kitchen, drive around the countryside and steal expensive fermented grapes for their tasting, and nearly orgasm on camera when tasting ham in Bologna.
In each episode, they show you how to cook various dishes from within the region. I tried making the Ricotta Dumplings last night. It only took twenty minutes and it was delicious. I’m going to try out the warm chocolate and amaretto pudding next. Doesn’t your mouth water just reading that title? I guess it doesn’t make much sense to cook a bunch of Italian food right before I leave for a week of eating in Italy, but really, is there such thing as too much Italian food? I’m starting to sound like Eat Pray Love so this is where I’ll check out.
This is a thank you post. First to Amsterdam, for having an exorbitantly priced and mostly mediocre food scene therefore forcing me to learn how to cook. And Second to food bloggers, for de-mystifying the magic behind cooking and never letting me go without migas or Korean bbq.
My journey to cooking started almost three years ago, when I first moved to Amsterdam. Before Amsterdam, I was the laziest mofo on the planet. I would wake up, get in my car and go through a drive through to get my breakfast tacos. Then I’d drive to a sandwich shop for lunch, and then drive to a thai place and meet up with friends for dinner. Repeat.
When I moved to Amsterdam, I soon realized that if I want to eat in this city and still have money left over to do anything, I would have get on a bike and sludge through the rain to affordable markets and butchers, stock up and balance five bags on my bike and ride home at a snails pace and figure out what to do with these ingredients. Amsterdam, I hate you and love you for making me work for everything.
But more and more I’m realizing that being forced to cook the last 2.5 years has been such a blessing. I think about all the things I can whip up now and think if I lived in a city in the states, I would never learn how to make this, I’d just buy it. So today, I want to give a shoutout to all the food bloggers out there who taught me how to cook dishes I could never order in a restaurant in Amsterdam!
The first year I lived in Amsterdam, I was forced to do without Korean Food. This may not seem like a big deal to most people but for me, it was like living without air. At the time I couldn’t find a single Korean restaurant and cooking it myself seemed way too difficult. One day, I couldn’t stand it anymore and googled “Korean Food Recipes”. Right there, hanging out on the internet was my beloved Maangchi. She made Korean cooking so easy, and so possible. It was food love at first sight and I now know how to make dozens of Korean dishes and even got to meet her in real life and cook with her in my houseboat!
Texans all over the world must thank Lisa Fain everyday for starting this blog. Food in Texas is its own amazing thing and when Texans are torn apart from it, things can get ugly. I found her site when I was still in Texas but had no need to read it like a bible till I moved here. From fancy tex-mex to simple southern dinner food, she has it all.
3. Budget Bytes
She makes recipes for broke people and it still tastes good.
Favorite Dish: Mexican Lentil Soup
I love her. There are so many random American dishes I crave and she’s always there to help me out. The other day I ran out of the bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing that I smuggled back from the states and nearly had a panic attack. Then I found Pioneer Women’s version of copying hidden valley ranch confessing that she too is forced to learn random condiment dishes due to necessity. Thank you for feeding cowboys and showing us what you feed them.
“When a puppet is good and true and meaningful, its the soul of the puppeteer that you’re seeing.”
This documentary made me so happy!
Ah Amsterdam, there are so many things I love about this city but one thing I’m less than thrilled about is Albert Heijn. If you’re not from here, AH is the main chain supermarket in the city. It basically has a monopoly and you’re pretty much forced to shop there for your basic goods. The store sucks because A. It’s expensive and B. They don’t have anything. Its almost impossible to boycott the store but I try to at least shop at open air markets for fresh produce and meat and get only the necessities there.
But now there’s Landmarkt! I discovered this wonderful magical supermarket heaven a couple months back. Think Whole Foods but (almost) normal grocery store prices. The idea behind Landmarkt is to offer a supermarket that resembles more of an open air market, in price, quality and atmosphere. The store clerks are super friendly and many of the products are actually from markets in Amsterdam. The baked goods come from a local bakery in the city, the seafood comes from a fish market near Chintatown, the beers are from local breweries, it’s basically a little Amsterdam foodie utopia. At the moment, there’s only one shop in the North of Amsterdam but they are planning to expand to other spots soon. It doesn’t have the convenience factor of AH but it’s definitely worth taking a ferry ride to the North and stocking up on great food. Suck it Albert Heijn.
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve left Texas and now it’s time to reflect on every unhealthy but awesome dish I digested there. I ate A LOT in two weeks. Duh, that’s what you do in Texas. After this gorging period, my body really felt the need to detox. I had my salads and vegetarian meals and now I’m back to craving the usual tex-mex and steaks. So here’s a post specifically to make my current self jealous of everything my past self ate a few weeks back. If you ever visit Houston or Austin, eat at these places!
The Breakfast Klub: Pure Houston soul food. Yes, I had waffles and chicken wings at 9am, and yes it was everything I could ever ask for in a breakfast and more. The place has a nice vibe but it gets busy. By 11 am there was a line all the way around the corner. Either get this dish or the catfish with grits.
Cadillac Bar & Grill: You’re typical cheesey awesome tex-mex. I had the stacked chicken enchiladas smotherd in a suiza tomatillo sauce. Mmmmm.
Taste of Texas: You can’t go to Texas without eating a good steak. This is a solid, slightly upscale steakhouse in Houston with very good cuts of beef. They take their meat so seriously you can even go to the back and order which steak you want from the butcher! It was probably one of the best steaks I had in my life.
Asia Cafe: I’ve been coming to this random Chinese supermarket/restaurant for years. If you want authentic chinese food, go here. This place is LEGIT. Melt in your mouth dumplings, tender spicy fish, and goood mapo tofu.
Threadgill’s: The other thing you must try in Texas is chicken fried steak. It’s a steak deep fried like chicken and smothered in gravy. I love threadgill’s because they have the best side dishes. You want fried okra, sweet potato fries, broccoli casserole? They have it all when it comes to southern comfort food.
Curra’s Grill: This place offers a giant selection of interior Mexican dishes for cheap. The one negative is they make you pay for chips and salsa. But, they have a two page breakfast menu (yes!) and amazing avocado margaritas. Yes, order it for breakfast. It’s delicious.
There’s two other notable places I ate at but was so hungry I scarfed down the meal before taking pictures. Nonetheless, they need to be mentioned. Round Rock Barbeque is surprisingly the best bbq I’ve had in my life. Their brisket is melt in your mouth tender and one of their side dishes is a tamale potato salad! ahhh. The other place is BBQ Garden, a Korean joint in Houston. They had great pork belly, and didn’t skimp on the kimichi side dishes.
I love food.