Review: Shari Sushi Lounge

For Valentine's Day, Errol took me to an awesome sushi place, Shari Sushi Lounge. I went on my flight to Orlando all dressed up for dinner and we went straight there. The picture above is a screen shot of their website, with a picture of where we were in the restaurant. We were on the second floor, and it felt like a private area. It was quieter and more romantic - not to say the commotion downstairs wouldn't be enjoyable too! 

Errol and I are self-proclaimed sushi snobs. We've been to so many sushi places and prefer raw, raw, raw fish. So when we sat down and perused the menu, we were pleased to see this place doesn't have California roll or Philadelphia roll. All rolls were considered "Specialty". 

We started out with Toro Tartare
Toro Tartare: Fatty tuna chopped with scallions and smelt roe atop a crispy tortilla chip, with black flying fish roe, Shari spicy mayo and shaved tempura shallots
 Then the Beauty and the Beast Roll:
Beauty and the Beast Roll: Two-in-one roll with: half tuna, avocado, asparagus, and spicy tobiko roe, and half eel, cucumber, asparagus and wasabi roe
And the grand finale was the Sushi Sashimi Moriawase: Combination of nigiri and sashimi selected by the Chef, served with fresh Japanese wasabi and imported soy sauce.

Errol and I have had numerous plates of nigiri/sashimi. It's always a combination of great pieces of escolar, salmon, and tuna; plus fake crab and disgusting shrimp (and I love shrimp). Since it's "Chef's choice" we can never dictate that what we really want is just the good stuff (of course). So we devised a plan to say that one of us has a shellfish allergy so we can't have shrimp or [fake] crab.

We did it this time, and our waitress said, "Don't worry there's no shrimp or crab." We literally raised our eyebrows. But oooooh man when our platter came out we were knocked out of our seats. It was the most amazing presentation we had ever seen.

Pieces of nigiri on one section of the plate as if they were swimming in water.

Then an ice boat on the other side with THICK pieces of sashimi. 1) ice boat?! and 2) these were the thickest pieces of sashimi I've ever had. The ice boat served to keep the sashimi nice and cold.

Then the martini glass had a rose bud made of pieces of white fish and surrounded by slices of strawberries. This was an AMAZING presentation!

To round out the flavors was a specially imported Japanese soy sauce (in the shot glass). It was saltier (and I normally use reduced-sodium) but when you taste it, the flavor is just fuller. It's hard to explain but it wasn't about the salt, but able the breadth of flavor.

My Valentine!

No shellfish in sight :)

Errol and I took our sweet time to finish every last bit of our dinner. It was our first dinner together since the beginning of January, so it really was a lovely time for numerous reasons. I was definitely spoiled by this dinner and loved every minute of it.


Snow Week

Last week was a crazy whirlwind of travel, sickness, and snow.

Sunday I drove back from Charleston, SC after a quick weekend trip with fellow Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Conference. Right when I got back home I started to feel achey, and lo and behold my temperature was in the triple digits by sun down. The temperature fluctuated from 99-102 degrees F until Wednesday when it finally subsided.

Come Wednesday, Winter Storm Pax hit North Carolina pretty hard. Luckily my classes were canceled already (but not the University), so I was home already. Around noon, it started to snow very aggressively to the point where within an hour, the roads were un-drivable.

It was Atlanta Part 2. The University proceeded to cancel all classes AND close all offices right in the middle of the horrible snow. There are pictures of classmates walking 3 miles home in the heavy snow because the buses were stuck in the crazy gridlock caused by wreck after wreck. The news said police departments fielded 600 calls in a span of 3 hours! Here's a traffic shot from Google Maps:

Again, I was in the comfort of my blankets watching the snow all day long. Normally, on the rare chance it snows in Chapel Hill, we wait all day for it only for the snow to come for 30 minutes at 11PM. This time it was hours on hours of heavy, heavy snow that didn't stop until the middle of the night. 

Wednesday was also the scheduled Duke vs. UNC basketball game which I actually had tickets for! My roommate was actually about to head out the door to walk 4 miles in the snow to get to the Dean Dome, when the Duke game was postponed. It made so many people angry because they were either waiting outside since 12PM in the heavy snow waiting to get in, or drive for hours to go just a few miles to make it to campus when they finally decided to postpone it. 

The next day, there was no precipitation at the start of the day. In the afternoon, freezing rain started to fall, then sleet, then finally snow again. This time, I had the urge to venture outside! 

Here's our porch alone: 

My roommate and I decided to walk to our friend's house on the other side of the neighborhood. This is a shot of the street on the way there. You can't even see the road! There were very rarely any cars that came through, and you could barely see the curb. 

This is how deep our feet were: 

Even going up some stairs was an adventure: 

Then before going back inside, we finished up our bucket list of throwing snow balls...

 ...making a snowman...

...and making snow angels!

So I had Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week off. I'm not complaining!


Cook-venture: Ravioli with Butter and Sage Sauce

Even though I went on a huge hiatus from blogging last year I was still taking pictures of food I made in the hopes I'd get the chance to eventually post it. Well, the time has come (or my free time is finally here) so here's a catch up post from a meal Errol and I made last summer (gasp!) for Errol's final visit before school started.

First we made some pasta (see my How-To from Florence!). Then mixed some ricotta cheese, thawed frozen spinach, salt and pepper to taste, and an egg to bind it all. 

Place about a tablespoon of the mixture into the middle, place another layer of pasta and crimp the edges with a fork. 

Oh hey, there's Errol! This was his first time making pasta because he did not take the cooking class with me in Florence. He was enjoying his first lesson :) 

Once the ravioli are finished, place them into boiling water. I would recommend a larger pot to boil and/or cook in batches. The nice thing about handmade pasta is that it just takes a few minutes for it to be cooked compared to dried! 

In the meantime, make the sauce! Melt a few tablespoons of butter and then place some whole sage leaves into the hot butter until they are slightly wilted. 

Once the ravioli are done, put on a plate, pour the butter sage sauce over them, and place fresh shavings of parmesan cheese and enjoy! 

Our first adventure making pasta after Italy was a success. The small kitchen makes for a challenge to rolling out the pasta so I actually rolled out one batch of dough into 4 rounds to accomodate my cutting board. I can't wait to have granite countertops and a larger kitchen!


Italy Trip (Catch-Up): How To Make Pasta From Scratch

One of the highlights of my trip to Italy last summer was the cooking class through Food And Wine Academy of Florence! All cooking classes are expensive. But for the price, I picked this one compared to lots of others I researched for a few reasons: 
  • It's a long course (about 6 hours) so it takes your whole day, BUT you get a huge meal out of that would cost some hefty Euros at a restaurant (plus drinks, seating charge, etc.).
  • These classes have a 10% student discount, PLUS I was able to add in a Rick Steves travel guide code that was in his book. Bonus! 
  • Class begins with a tour of the Central Market of Florence where you get your ingredients for the day, AND a cheese/balsamic vinegar tasting (food education + snacks!)
  • You walk away with the recipes from the day PLUS some other ones to try at home

In this class, we made pasta and tiramisu, but I'll save the tiramisu for a separate post. Here's a shot from above of our work space for the day! This was after a couple hours at the Central Market (also saved for another post). 

Prep materials! 

Chef Giovanni taught us a lot, even though he was slightly condescending to American food culture (but hey, I'm not blaming him when we have McDonald's to be proud of...). He dispelled a lot of myths, like: 
  • Fettuccine alfredo is NOT ITALIAN. Italians use smaller noodles with white sauces (angel hair, penne, etc.). 
  • Spaghetti would also not be used with a meat sauce. Italians use the thicker pasta noodles (like the pappardelle we made that day) for hearty meat sauces because they can withstand it. 

He started by measuring out our individual flour portions. We used Tipo "00" flour, which is a finer type of flour. I can't seem to find it in the US except for on Amazon in huge portions, so I have semolina and all-purpose at home. 

Start out by making your pile in a neat circle, then using your thumb and first few fingers, create a well in the center. Plop your egg in, some olive oil, and pinch of salt. Take a fork and scramble the egg, and every so often add in some flour from the side of your well until fully incorporated. This is a messy step, so when I'm at home I do this inside of a mixing bowl then will put on a flat surface to knead. 

Speaking of kneading, do it for about 15 minutes. Yes, you will get tired if you're like me and incredibly out of shape. I also blame my height for not having enough leverage to use my body weight. You want to keep kneading it until it becomes smooth on the outside, and create a pretty ball. Then you're going to wrap it very tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes. This lets the dough soften for when you roll it out. 

In the meantime, Chef Giovanni took us to the stove to make the Bolognese sauce. It was in here I answered his quiz question that the sauce got its name because it originates in Bologna (go me!). 

Once the dough is finished sitting, roll out the dough. Put some flour on the counter and on top of the dough. Every now and then keep flipping the dough as you get it thinner and thinner. If you think the dough is thin enough, keep going. We were told to roll it until you can see the granite through the dough (if you look really hard you can see it in the picture). 

To make the pappardelle, lightly fold the dough and simply cut it to pappardelle thickness! The order of noodles from thinnest to widest are: Angel hair --> Spaghetti --> Fettuccine --> Tagliatelle --> Pappardelle 

We used half the dough to make pappardelle, and the other half to make ravioli. The filling is a simple ricotta and egg mixture. 

Similar to the pappardelle, fold the dough but this time to the thickness of your ravioli cutter (in this case, a glass!). In the first step, do NOT cut the pasta, just use the glass to get the correct width. Instead, first cut the dough in long ribbons with the correct width. Place the ricotta mixture in a small ball on one ribbon, and then place another on top. You may need to stretch the top layer slightly to make it over the ricotta. 

NOW you can cut the ravioli in pretty circles. Take a fork and crimp the edges to seal. Be careful not to puncture the cheese in the process! 

Here are the fruits of our labor for the day! 

 As we ate some bruschetta that was made for us, Chef Giovanni put the dishes together:
  • Pappardelle with Bolognese sauce
  • Ravioli with butter and sage sauce

I've already made these dishes multiple times at home. And although I can't re-create the exact flavors because the meat in Italy is fresher, I believe it still tastes good! I have also been able to teach family and friends how to make pasta as well, which is always fun! 

I highly recommend doing any cooking class of some sort if you're interested in that sort of thing. It was relatively basic, but I was still able to learn something from it and makes a great store. It's an experience you'll never forget! 


Review: Buku (Triangle Restaurant Week)


Yesterday was the last day of Triangle Restaurant Week (TRW), a week where tons of restaurants in Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh create pre-fixed menus at pre-fixed prices for people to explore. These prices are generally much cheaper than when it's not TRW and is an innovative advertising opportunity.

This TRW, a few friends and I tried out Buku: Global Street Food. It is truly a global restaurant with twists on classic dishes ranging from:
  • South America (Colombian arepa, Argentinian short rib)
  • Europe (Polish pierogi, Belgian steak fries, German soft pretzel knots)
  • Asia (Burmese deviled eggs, Vietnamese crepe)
  • Africa (South African lamb kebabs)
  • (Just to name a few!)

It was really exciting to even see twists on Filipino classics: 
  • Lumpia with chili-mango ground pork, mango salad, and cilantro chutney
  • Duck Adobo with coconut rice, atchara, and fried duck egg

The lumpia wasn't on the prefixed menu, but I had to get it. It was delicious! The meat tasted just like home, but the twist with the mango salad and cilantro chutney was amazingly refreshing. And I loooove cilantro. 

First Course: Laotian Duck Larb
Duck leg confit, sticky rice, cucumber, Laotian herb pesto, lime 

This was my first time having confit, and anything Laotian, so I had no idea what to expect. The duck had a strong flavor of salt and spice, and the cucumbers were necessary to balance that out (along with lots of water).  The taste was great, but I generally prefer sauces with meat and this was relatively dry. I didn't finish this course (a theme throughout the meal) but still liked it!

Second Course: Macademia-encrusted Red Snapper
Purple sweet potato puree, mango, coconut-papaya salad, taro chips, passionfruit reduction

I was pretty full by this point (blame the water from the confit) but kept trying to power through. These were more flavors I'd never had; the sweet potato was really good. I wasn't the biggest fan of the sweet potato texture but I always like starch with a meal. The salad was pickled, which I didn't expect, and it was very good. The taro chips were a great texture in addition with the macadamia crust on the fish. 

Dessert: Normandy-style Roasted Apple Cake
Golden raisins, chevre buttercream, Calvados-vanilla bean ice cream, fried sage, cider reduction

I needed some sweet to round out the meal and this hit the spot. The ice cream was my favorite part of the entire meal! The cake is a dense one, but it's not too sweet (my kind of dessert). The raisins add a nice texture and flavor to the dish as well.

Overall, I would come back to Buku. It's definitely a place with dishes I couldn't recreate without spending a ton on fancy ingredients and taking some cooking classes. It's great to see a place that has such a wide variety of dishes from all over the world; it's like traveling to different countries all in one night!


Food-venture: Stromboli

So starts the week of making meals from whatever I have in the pantry and fridge to make my meals. I must admit I cheated I bit, and that I bought these ingredients during a prior week and didn't have the opportunity to make it. 

I was disappointed when I looked up information about stromboli that its origin is actually the United States, despite its Italian name and ingredients. Although, it was from Wikipedia so any other information would be welcomed. When I was in Italy last summer I actually learned that fettuccine alfredo is actually of United States origin as well (#mindblown). 

But anywho, this was a super easy dish with infinite variations. I decided to start with classic pepperoni and mozzarella cheese filling to start, then will try more later.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. I started with pre-made pizza crust from a tube.

It's a pretty big deal that I opened this all by myself since I'm quite easily startled. Unfortunately, the tube didn't open by simply exposing the dotted line. I had to use the spoon against the crevice method. But it worked! 

Flatten out the crust. Tastes great, I just wish that I had thinned out the crust a bit more before using. But this did fit perfectly on my cutting board. 

First layer were pepperoni slices...

...then shredded mozzarella. These were pre-shredded which I know is a big no-no but it made making this that much faster! Next time I'll use more cheese.

Fold the bottom third up...

...then the top third downward. Seal the sides and the top. 

I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and brushed it over the top, then sprinkled Italian seasoning on top. 

Place on a baking sheet (my Silpat has been seeing a lot of action!) for 15-20 minutes until healthy brown. 

All done! 

Slice up and dip in marinara sauce. Yum!

It doesn't really get easier than this, and it will last for a few lunches. It's a cleaner version of pizza that takes up less surface area for transport. I'm a fan. 

Future variations: 
  • Spinach, feta, and mozzarella
  • Salami, pepperoni, cheese, capers
  • Ham, pineapple, mozzarella
  • Buffalo chicken, blue cheese