Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Palace Korean Bar & Grill

Last week, my friends and I decided to go to an all you can eat Korean BBQ place. We decided on Palace Korean Bar & Grill. When we entered, not one person was at the front desk. Another group of people were ahead of us and were waiting at a door which was actually where the "BBQ-ing" was taking place. Then, a lady popped up rolling a cart and told us to take a booth where we wanted. The place had a sort of hole in the wall feel but not completely. A gas heater was right in the middle of the place yet the place was freezing cold. Not to mention, the booth was a bit dirty with crumbs from the previous diners. Uhhh, GROSS! 

We stayed in our booth anyway and just wiped it a bit. Korean BBQ places are awesome! It's essentially meat galore! The idea of having a variety of meats to choose from and having the meat constantly brought to you to grill on your own is just the best idea ever. Just make sure you're really hungry so you can get your money's worth!!

For the first plate of meat we opted for the combo platter because we really didn't know what to get. Before our meat came out a variety of side dishes came out including kim chi, marinated cucumber, fish cakes, mashed potatoes w/ apples, peas and carrots, and a green salad. Then the meat came and it was time to grill up.

Our meat combo was full of brisket, short ribs, marinated beef, beef tongue, pork's belly, shrimp, spicy pork bulgogi, marinated chicken and more. At the point where we essentially grilled most of our meat, I was getting disappointed with how our rice didn't even arrive. We had to tell our waiter about the rice again for it to arrive and when it did come, they only gave us two bowls because they were still cooking it, and we were a group of four.

Once our meat was all gone, we had to wait 5-10 minutes for the waiter to come by and ask if we wanted more. Of course we do! I mean, that's why they call is "All You Can Eat". This time we ordered the spicy pork bulgogi and grilled marinated beef slices.

The pork bulgogi was a bit too spicy for my taste but the grilled marinated beef slices was my fav. Definitely a must try!! The Short ribs were a fav. as well.

Yet again, we had to wait another 5-10 min for our waiter to come back and ask if we wanted more. Seriously? We will not be done with just 2 plates of meat....

Overall, we had four plates of meat and the the food was delicious. I just love places where you can make your own food. Despite how good the food was, I was disappointed with the service, or lack there of. In the restaurant, there was only one server which I didn't understand and the woman we had seen earlier rolling the cart seemed to have disappeared. There was also a moment when there was only our table and another table and yet we didn't receive the best attention. However, when the waiter did come to our table, he was very friendly.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Palace Korean Bar & Grill
15932 NE 8th St
(between N 160th Ave & S 159th Pl)
Bellevue, WA 98008
(425) 957-3522

-Aaron John

Wednesday, December 21, 2011



A couple of days ago, I was exposed to the wonder that is Cookie Butter at one of my friend's house. I know what you're thinking. "Cookie Butter? What in the world is that?". That's exactly what I was thinking. At first I thought it would taste like a chocolate chip cookie made into a spread form. But nope, far from that. 

This Cookie Butter has a similar texture to peanut butter but tastes completely different. It's spicy in flavor. Not chili pepper spicy, but spicy in the terms of cinnamon, nutmeg and that sort of thing. When my friend read the label, he mentioned it being made of Speculoos. Then I had an "Aha!" moment. I remembered "Speculoos" from "Throwdown With Bobby Flay" which featured Belgian Waffles. From that episode, they mentioned Speculoos tasting similar to ginger snaps and/or graham crackers and they are right.

I got on the internet to search for a Speculoos recipe and found one from Dorie Greenspan. This cookie screams Christmas with the spices of cinnamon, ginger and cloves running through this cookie. It taste of the mixture of a ginger snap, graham cracker and ginger thins. If you need a new last minute cookie recipe, this one is it!!

My only complaint with this recipe is that it didn't hold onto its shape when I used a fluted cutter. It still tasted great nonetheless. Another thing, I actually preferred these cookies when they are crisp aka darker around the edges. This way, they were reminiscent of ginger thins. So good! 

Recipe by Dorie Greenspan
Makes about 70 cookies

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 (packed) cup light brown sugar

Whisk the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices together in a bowl.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a bowl with a hand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Add the sugars and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. ADD THE EGG AND CONTINUE TO BEAT UNTIL IT, TOO, IS BLENDED INTO THE BUTTER AND SUGARS. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, mixing only until the flour disappears into the soft dough. You may have some flour at the bottom of the bowl, or the dough may not be entirely smooth, but that’s normal. Using your hands (always my first choice) or a spatula, reach into the bowl and knead or stir the dough 2 or 3 times, just enough to eliminate any dry spots.

Divide the dough in half. (The dough is very soft, even after you refrigerate it for several hours, so if your kitchen is hot, you might want to divide the dough into thirds – that way it won’t take you as long to cut out the cookies and the dough won’t soften as much.) Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll the dough between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap until you have a circle that’s a scant ¼ inch thick. As you’re rolling, turn the dough over a couple of times and pull away the paper or plastic, so you don’t end up rolling creases into the dough. Put the rolled-out rounds of dough on a tray or cutting board and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozne, well wrapped, for up to 2 months.)

When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Choose a cookie cutter – I like to use a scalloped cutter that’s 1 1/4-inches in diameter – and remove 1 circle of dough from the refrigerator. Peel off the top piece of wax paper or plastic and cut out as many cookies as you can from the dough, carefully lifting the cutouts onto the lined baking sheet. Collect the scraps and set them aside to combine with the scraps from the second piece of dough.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are lightly golden and just slightly brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to rest on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool.

Repeat with the second round of dough, making certain the baking sheet is cool before you put the cutouts on it. To use the scraps, press them together, roll them into a circle, and chill them before cutting and baking.

Serving: The cookies are just right with coffee, made for espresso and tea and really good nibbled as a snack.

Storing: The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Kept in an airtight container, the cookies will be fine for a week or more.

-Aaron John

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Final Project: Cookies and Cake?

L to R: Raspberry Linzer Cookies, Black and White Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies dipped in White Chocolate and Red Sprinkles

Vanilla Butter Cake layered with Raspberry Jam and Vanilla Bean Buttercream, drizzled with a Sweet Tea Caramel Sauce

How is it possible to make cookies and cake for a final project you ask? Well, I have no idea either. It's almost unheard of but there I was, making cookies and cake for my AAS 330 final project.

AAS 330 stands specifically for Asian American Studies: Asian American Theater. For our final essay/project, the goal was to either write an essay about an artistic problem in a play or to have an artistic approach to presenting a play, mainly in set design, directing, lighting, etc. and creating a 3D model. To be honest, I was confused as to what to do.

I began to write my essay and I hit a wall, didn't know which way to go. So, I ended up thinking about what I can do artistically. It hit me like a ton of bricks; do something in the culinary arts! Duhhh. So I ended up emailing my Professor about an idea to turn the five characters of the play Tea, into dessert form. To my amazement, the idea was viable!

I debated if it were a smart thing to do. I mean, with finals the same week as the presentation, would it be smart to bake for one whole day and sacrificing a whole day of studying for my other classes? I did it anyway because when will I ever be able to have an opportunity like this to do what I love for a project? Probably never again.

After a day and a half of baking, this is what I came up with:

Sugar Cookie: Represents Teruko. Such a plain character with no sub-text and was one dimensional like a sugar cookie

Black and White Cookie: Represents Setsuko. A calm character that I felt observed both sides of a conversation, weighed her options and tried to reduce conflict as much as possible.

Chocolate Chip Cookie dipped in White Chocolate and Red Sprinkles: Represents Chizuye. As the most assimilated character, she is the most iconic American Cookie. The white chocolate and red sprinkles represents the Japanese flag and culture. She breaks away from her Japanese culture in the form of a chocolate shell and becomes assimilated into America, revealing the Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Raspberry Linzer Cookie: Represents Himiko. She is seen as a ghost throughout the play which explains the dusting of powdered sugar. The Raspberry Jam in the center represents the "pool of blood" she layed in after she shot herself. I specifically wanted her to be a sandwich cookie to represent how easily the two cookies can be ripped apart representing how easily Himiko's life fell apart due to the lack of stability after being controlled by her husband, murder of her daugther and eventually Himiko's death.

Vanilla Butter Cake layered with Raspberry Jam and Vanilla Bean Buttercream, drizzled with a Sweet Tea Caramel Sauce: Represents Atsuko. At first I believed she was a selfish and rude character that tried to take away from the remembrance of Himiko's life and putting attention on herself. However, reading the play over about two times, that wasn't the case at all. She put on a facade of not caring about Himiko, hiding her emotions unlike the rest of the characters, which is why she's a cake and not a cookie. Being a cake and not a cookie provides a difference in how she expressed her emotions vs. the others. Even though she put on a facade, deep down, she truly cared about Himiko which is why the cake is layered with Raspberry Jam to tie it back to Himiko's cookie. The Sweet Tea Caramel was used to bring back the whole notion that the play is called Tea.

Overall, doing this project was the best thing that I could've done. This was the first time I was able to present something I was truly passionate about and I can't tell you enough how great it felt to present this. Never in a million years would I think I would be able to do this and it's all because of my Professor. Thanks Professor!! This was the best class I have ever taken so far!! :)

-Aaron John

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hybrid Cookie: Chocolate & Almond Biscotti Meets a Black & White Cookie

Today, I had a presentation at UW for my Asian American Studies: Asian Theater Class. The presentation: Act out the lines of the play "Tea" by Velina Houston in groups of 6. I never knew how much fun acting could be. 

The lights were dim in the Ethnic Cultural Theater. As we watched other groups go through their lines, it was finally our group's turn to have the spot light. We sat around a bamboo mat, had tea and recited our lines. Nervous? Yes. But it all went away when we came into character. Not to mention how great my group was! 

So, how do these cookies come into play? Well, yesterday, I really did NOT want to study. If I don't study what do I do? Make food! This time, I decided to make this hybrid cookie. This was actually my first time making these. At first I was simply going to make Black and White Cookies but I thought they were too plain and needed added texture. Thus, I added almonds to the top and drizzled with white chocolate instead. The flavors of a Chocolate & Almond Biscotti with the texture of the cookie resembling that of a Black And white Cookie.

All in all, you can't make baked goods without giving some away. After all, it's the time of year where giving treats should be a must!! This was exactly why I gave some to my AAS group. I hope they liked it! :)

Black and White Cookies 
(Makes about 16 large cookies)
Adapted from Gourmet Cookbook via Joy The Baker

For the Cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg

1/2 cup chopped almonds
Melted Milk Chocolate
Melted White Chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Stir together buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add eggs, beating until combined well. Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed (scraping down side of bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Spoon 1/4 cups of batter about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back when touched, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack and chill (to cool quickly), about 5 minutes.

Once cooled, spread melted chocolate on the bottom of the cookies. Sprinkle the chopped almonds over the chocolate. Finally, drizzle with white chocolate.

-Aaron John


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