Jihye Chang

“Coffee & Cafe”

Bing Soo – Popular Summer Dessert in Korea

It’s probably too early to talk about Bing-Soo or Bingsu (빙수 – Shaved ice), but it’s hot enough in Tallahassee!

Shaved ice is really popular summer treat in Korea. It is usually made with sweet red bean paste and various condiments – toasted grain powder mix (Misu-garu, 미숫가루), toasted nuts and seeds, some rice cake, jelly, fruits, ice cream, etc. Red bean is called “Pat” (팥), and it’s the most important ingredient for making this icy treat. Therefore the most common name for this dessert is actually “Pat Bing Soo” (팥빙수). During the early 2000s, Pat Bing Soo with a lot of different toppings was very popular. Also different kinds of Bingsoo made with sweetened fruit compote or green tea, coffee, black tea became popular. But during the past 2-3 years, I have observed the return of original simplicity: shaved ice with just sweet enough stewed red bean, a few pieces of well made rice cake, little bit of condensed milk or milk, and a few drops of pine nuts.

Photo below was taken at “Dong Bing Go” (동빙고) in Dongbu Ichon-Dong. It’s one of the very popular and famous bingsoo places in Seoul.

There are many places now famous for this dish, including “Gabae” (가배) of Samchung-Dong; Bing Bing Bing and Ok Roo Mong in Hongik University area and so on. One of the oldest and most popular place to taste this is “Mill Top” in Hyundai Department store Abgujung branch. You have to wait easily 30 minutes to try this, and they only focus on this dish. It’s the very simple version – red bean, shaved ice, a few chewy rice cake pieces, and condensed milk. For that, the price might seem a bit high. (Most of these famous and popular places charge $6-7 per small bowl) But it takes great care and good ingredients to make a really good bowl of Pat Bing Soo. One must start with Korean grown/ house made red bean that’s not too sweet or flavorless. The ice should be shaved very finely so that it doesn’t have a coarse texture in your mouth. The amount of milk or condensed milk should not be too much, otherwise it will overwhelm the balance of the dish. The rice cake should also have a good texture and freshness.

I really liked the version at Gabae, Samchung-Dong. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to explain how to get to this place. But Samchungdong is a very popular date course with many precious restaurants and shops, so you might want to just take a walk in that area and ask around for this place. (Gabae is located close to the Samchung police station, but it’s tucked into a very small alley way, and the sign is not too obvious. It’s right next door to the popular cafe-chain called 5 Ci Jung).  The bottom right one is Strawberry Bing Soo. Gabae freezes and stores a huge amount of strawberries when they are in season, and use them as a base of this dish. And then they garnish it with fresh fruits and some nuts. Very delicious and refreshing! I took some of my American friends to this place last summer, and they all liked the Strawberry version more.

The most expensive and luxurious version of Bing Soo can be found at the Hotel Shilla’s lobby “The Library.” They make it with in-season apple mango shipped from Cheju island. The price? Whopping $34 + tax + service charge! Probably the most expensive dessert I have ever eaten. But it was actually worth it. They use 2 whole apple mangoes for one bowl of this. The ice is shaved so finely and thinly, it melts in your mouth. It also has slight yogurt tang. And the apple mango – it is so much better than the bland and flavorless mangoes found in a lot of American supermarkets. It’s even better than the in season mangoes I had in Taiwan. The flesh is a bit firmer, and it has a lot more fragrance and a lot more flavor. There are a few other places that serve similar version of this, but the Hotel Shilla’s version is a must try.

So, there. I think I am already longing for a trip to Korea during the summer time! 🙂

 

Bongpiyang, Seoul’s best chain restaurant

If you ever see “봉피양” (Bong Pi Yang) in Seoul, you must go inside and eat their cold noodle and dumplings. If your wallet is full, then try their grilled pork rib (galbi – 돼지갈비). If someone’s treating you, go for the grilled beef rib. (소갈비)

It’s one of the favorite chain restaurants among restaurant bloggers in Korea, and is rightfully so. Some branches are better than others, but overall the food quality is really high. It’s not a cheap place, but you will feel that your money was well spent no matter what you order here.

Mool naeng myun (Buckwheat cold noodle with savory cold broth, 물냉면) is a winter delicacy as the buckwheat is in season during the late fall-winter time. Photo below was taken in July 2012 at Bongpiyang, Hoja-dong branch.

Photo below was taken in November 2011 at Seorae maul Byukje galbi, which is a higher end franchise of the same company.

Mool naeng myun needs a few essential components: noodle made with lots of buckwheat that is not too sticky or chewy, but rather soft and fragrant; broth made with beef (originally it was made with pheasant, but now beef is the most standard ingredient) and some white kimchi broth (usually Dongchimi, which is a radish kimchi without the red pepper); and a few toppings such as sliced radish kimchi, slice of the beef that made the broth, sliced Asian pear, and sliced egg omelet or a hard-boiled egg.There are a few really famous and popular non-chain spots for this dish in Seoul – Woo Rae Ok (우래옥), Eulji myunok (을지면옥), Eulmildae (을밀대),  Pyung-Yang myunok (평양면옥), Pyung ga ok (평가옥), Pil dong myunok (필동면옥), Seobuk myunok (서북면옥), etc. (“Myunok” means a restaurant of noodles.) But Bongpiyang is always on the top 5 list of “The Best Mool Naeng Myun Places in Seoul” along with these famous places, and their naengmyun rarely disppoints. It is also a little bit easier and friendlier version than some of the other purist version of this dish – more beef flavor and a bit of tangy-ness in the broth.

Photo below was taken in November 2011 at Bongpiyang, Bangyi branch.

I know it is a bit strange for a lot of foreigners to eat noodle with cold broth, but once you get used to the idea, there’s nothing like it! The depth of the flavor is really subtle, and there is so much nuance in this simple, non-aggressive dish. Also the faint fragrance from really good buckwheat is very attractive.

Another popular dish at Bongpiyang is the grilled pork rib. As far as seasoned and grilled pork meat goes, this is one of the bests in Korea. Not too heavily seasoned, not too sweet, and the meat is juicy and tender. But it’s also one of the most expensive – about $25 per person for not a lot of pork!

And Bongpiyang doesn’t give a lot of side dishes. (At any other grilling place, you would get at least 4-5 different side dishes.)

They use really good wood charcoal for grilling, too.

Service can be very indifferent or slow, though.

If you like spice food, try the Yang Gom Tang (spicy soup with beef intestants).

The easiest location is probably Bangyi branch. Take subway line 5 (purple line), get off at the Bangyi station/ take exit 4. Walk straight and turn left at the first side road. Hyojadong location is also easy. Take subway line 3 (orange line), get off at the Gyungbokgung station/ take exit 3 and walk straight for about 3-4 min. It’s on your right side. There are many fun little cafes, cloth shops and markets around this station, so it will be fun to spend an afternoon here after eating lunch at Bongpiyang.

Enjoy!

Ike and Jane, Athens, GA

Ike and Jane, where you can get an “Elvis Presley Donut” – yeast donut with peanut butter glaze, banana slices and a piece of bacon. It sounds strange, but it’s quite a great combination! (Although I can let go of the bacon part.)

Ike and Jane is a cute and charming bakery-cafe in Athens, Georgia, where one can get a cup of decent coffee along with their fun variations of donuts, cupcakes, breakfast items, and really good freshly squeezed orange juice. I stumbled upon this place while I was in Athens for a rehearsal, and a concert a few weeks later. Their sign was so cute that I had to go inside and check it out.

Breakfast biscuit was delicious, and the cappuccino was decent enough.Pistachio-caramel glazed yeast donut was also yummy!

Atmosphere: Casual charming. Fun to look at the showcase!

Service: Friendly and apt

Website: www.ikeandjane.com

Hours: Monday-Friday, 6:30am-5pm/ Saturday-Sunday, 8am-2pm

Address/ Phone#: 1307 Prince Avenue/ 706-850-1580

Tip: Parking can be pretty hard! And it seems always crowded. It might be easier for the driver to stay in the car, and take a to-go order during the busy hours.

They also have quite large lunch options, but I have not tried it yet. A good reason to go back to Athens, I suppose!

Bacon Kimchi Fried Rice

I think it’s genius that Danji called their kimchi fried rice as “kimchi chorizo paella”. It sounds so much more interesting! Kimchi fried rice has so much potential and variations – basically you can put any kind of meat you want in it. My favorite is with bacon or with some rib-eye steak in the fat from the steak. (I sometimes grill steak just to eat the kimchi fried rice afterward.) Chorizo is also good as well as andouille sausages. Canned tuna is next in line. If you can get your hands on pork belly, that’s always a great choice for any kimchi dishes.

Since bacon is available in every grocery store in the U.S.A., here is a recipe for Bacon kimchi fried rice. It’s so easy, and it’s so yummy. But remember, you must have good kimchi and good rice to begin with! (See my previous post for some store-bought kimchi options.)

For 2 hungry adults:

3 cups of cooked rice

5 slices of bacon (or more, if you like) – remove excessive fat and chop finely

1/2 yellow onion or Vidalia onion – finely diced

1 TB Korean style chili oil [Gochu-girum: You can find ta recipe for this among my old blog entries] OR Japanese La-Yu + 0.5 TB Canola oil

2 Green onion stems, green parts only – finely sliced

1.5 cup kimchi – finely chopped (about same size as the bacon and onion)

Salt, Pepper

Optional, but highly recommended: Fried egg, sunny side up

How To Make

1) In a wok, fry the bacon

2) Add the chili oil – then add chopped onion and green onion. Then stir fry until the onion is translucent. Add more Korean chili flake [Gochu-garu], if you like it spicier.

3) Add chopped kimchi and mix well/ stir fry until kimchi starts to cook. (color will become less vibrant)

4) Add rice and mix well. Try not to break the rice too much/ use the edge of a wooden spatula.

5) When everything is mixed well and rice is warmed through, it’s done! Top with sunny-side up fried egg and enjoy!

Enjoy~ 🙂

Tallahassee Eats: Vertigo Burgers

There was a lot of buzz about the Vertigo Burger during the late summer of 2012. I usually don’t eat much red meat, and I rarely order a hamburger for myself at a restaurant. However things were slightly different in 2012 as I was pregnant with a precious little boy. The meat craving was almost ridiculous – I ate more amount of hamburgers and Chipotle’s beef fajita burrito than I ever ate in my life during my second trimester!

Anyways. Back to Vertigo – this is a new burger joint that was established by the same people who own the 101 in downtown. I am not a big fan of 101, but somehow the logo of Vertigo was exciting to my eyes. Also I was craving hamburger like crazy in August. So I went there alone (!!) and ordered the “Straight Up” with some sweet potato fries..then went back a few more times with my husband.

Atmosphere: Minimal, simple, casual, modern, functional, a bit chic

Menu: Simple but varied enough. A few salad options.

See their website for full menu – http://www.vertigoburgersandfries.com/menu/

Food: I like the flavor of their hamburger patties and the texture/ flavor of the buns. I also like their sweet potato fries – crisp outside, not too salty. I am not a big fan of the accompanied Vertigo sauce, though. It has little bacon pieces, and they sometimes taste a bit rancid. Plus bacon+mayo doesn’t work too well with either potato fries nor sweet potato fries. Their onion rings taste as though they are fried in good/ clean oil and are seasoned well. But I prefer beer battered kind of rings with more spongy-ness inside. Vertigo’s onion rings are a bit too floury.

So far we have tried the “Straight Up” (Burger with red onion, lettuce, tomato, pickles, American cheese, mustard, and ketchup), “Triple Throw Down” (beef burger, applewood bacon &  blue cheese, horseradish sauce, caramelized onions), and “Vertigo” (beef burger, fried egg, applewood bacon, griddled jalapeños, sharp cheddar, vertigo sauce).

Triple throw down comes with a lot of blue cheese, and my husband liked it very much. Straight up is really straight up, but very clean and refined flavor. I don’t eat a lot of hamburgers, so I can’t compare it to other burger joints, except for Five Guys. I think it is somewhat unfair to compare this place to Five Guys.. Five Guys serves good enough burger (for a franchise) at a very good price, but I think overall quality of ingredients is better at Vertigo. (And it should be!)

Service: It’s straight forward. You order at the cashier, get a number for your table, and they deliver it for you. Servers here are mostly young college kids, and they have been all very friendly and competent. We visited four times, and every time our orders came exactly the way we wanted.

Price/ Portion: A lot of people complained on Yelp about the size of Vertigo’s burgers. I don’t have a problem with it. I actually like it that it’s not too humongous, but I can see that it might be too small for others. Also many complain that the burger doesn’t come with fries. Maybe that is a problem, considering the relatively “high” price tag. (about $8.5-9 average for a burger/ $2.95 for full order of fries/ $1.95 for half order of fries) Portion for their fries is a bit more generous than the burger.

Now that my little boy is out, and I have lost the meat craving, I don’t think I will go back there voluntarily. But probably my husband will want to go back there for some blue-cheese loaded burger. The only problem I have with Vertigo is that I smell like grilled burger after I eat there – somehow the ventilation system doesn’t seem to be working so well..!

Great cafes in America #5, Quill’s Coffee, Louisville

Louisville is one of my favorite cities in the U.S.A. – It has a bit of the southern charm, a bit of the college-town coolness, and a bit of the urban-ness without being too crowded or too big to browse around. I first visited the city in 2005, and have been going back there for concerts. But whenever I am there, I am as much interested in the new restaurants and cafes as in my performances. I used to frequent the Heine Brothers Coffee for espresso drinks and desserts, as well as Blue Dog Bakery for breads, North End Cafe for brunch, and Dakshin for Indian food.

The most recent visit was in October 2012, and a friend of mine who is a coffee afficionado told me about the new cafe in L-ville: Quill’s. Quill’s has 2 locations in Louisville and 1 location in New Albany, Indiana. I visited the Cardinal Blvd. location near U of L and the one in New Albany.

They only focus on the coffee – meaning, not a lot of other drink options or baked items. I like the industrial look and the spaciousness of both locations. Coffee tasted better at the Cardinal location, though. They have something that has a bit more milk than the traditional macchiato, and it was velvety+sweet with just right amount of acidity and deep flavor.. but I forget the name!

I liked the drink above better than the traditional macchiato.

They roast their coffee beans in-house. They also have nice selection of beans and coffee related merchandise items on their website at https://quillscoffeeco.squarespace.com.

There were other cafes I visited – Sunergo was nice, but I prefer the flavor and the texture of Quill’s more. (Also the atmosphere is different: Sunergo is a bit more hippy and free/ Quill’s is more urban and cool.)

I didn’t care too much for Vint, though. The store felt not too clean or friendly and the espresso macchiato tasted a bit burned and too dark for my taste.

Next time I visit Louisville, I will check out the Java Brewing Company and La Grange coffee. I hope the good stuff keeps coming in Louisville!

Great Cafes in America #4, Stumptown NYC at Ace Hotel

I took a short trip to NYC in November 2010 to check out a few of the New York’s Best Cafes (mainly for their espresso drinks). I chose about seven cafes recommended and rated by various magazines and New York Times), and visited Abraco, 3rd Rail Coffee near NYU, Joe’s Art of Espresso, 9th Street Espresso (the Chelsea market location), Cafe Grumpy, Stumptown at the Ace Hotel, and Blue Bottle in Williamsburg. They were all good and great, but my favorite were 9th Street Espresso and Stumptown. It would be better if I visited all of them more than once before writing about them, but then good places should be good at any time for any visitors, eh?!
Stumptown Espresso hails from Portland, but New Yorkers can enjoy it at the lobby of Ace Hotel in Manhattan.I once ordered the “Hair Bender” espresso blend from Stumptown and did not like it at all as it was too acidic. So I hesitated a little bit before I made the trip downtown after getting super caffeinated at the Blue Bottle. But then I thought, “I am in NYC for only 3 days, so why not get super-duper caffeinated?” The baristas at Stumptown Manhattan were quiet, skilled, and professional.

I ordered a double macchiato – my favorite drink, and something that I order to see if the cafe is to my liking or not – with a bottle of sparkling water. Stumptown’s macchiato was really superb – acidity was very present, but in a very pleasant way. Mouth-feel was heavy and balanced,  and there was a bit of sweetness.  My memo states “Very nice! Mellower and better than what I remember. More edgy and has some smokiness. Also a bit of strange woodiness..maybe jasmine?”

Excited by the macchiato, I ordered a double small cappuccino. This was also good, but I liked the macchiato better.

Overall, it felt like a great cafe with really cool and unpretentious atmosphere and well skilled baristas doing a good job. I would love to go to their original location on the division street. Maybe next year.

http://www.stumptowncoffee.com/locations/nyc-ace

Jeonkwangsoo Coffee in Myung-Dong area

Again, I introduce a gem in a very busy area without decent coffee culture – that is Myungdong. It’s always jam packed with young couples, tourists, and shoppers of all ages.

Of course there are a lot of coffee shops in Myungdong, but they are mainly chain cafes such as Starbucks, Beans Bins, etc. There is an old fashioned cafe called “Gamu,” but it’s a place to visit more for the nostalgia not for excellent coffee. (They serve “Vienna Coffee” which is strong coffee with lots of whipped cream, not made from milk fat)

For someone who’s looking for a decent single-serve coffee or a good cup of macchiato using the micro-roasted beans, Jeonkwangsoo coffee is a safe choice. Mr. Jeon is one of the so-called “2nd generation coffee people,” and has almost 20 years of experience in the coffee business. Well trained baristas work here, and the price of the “hand-drip” coffee is between 5000-6000 won ($5-6), which is pretty good for the location and the style. They roast their own beans, and there is a coffee academy next door. Their espresso machine is Dalla Corte.

It has become a bit too famous during the past 1-2 years, and they have a few branches all over Seoul and one in Wonjoo. Sometimes the cafe is just too busy (especially when there is a large group of middle-age women. Oh boy they are loud.) But still it’s a cafe where you can be assured of a decent cup of coffee.

They also serve “Thick-Faced Toast” (낯두꺼운 토스트) with butter and jam, but the toast is a bit too thick and dry. Nice jam, though!

Location: Namsan-Dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea (Take the subway line #4/ get off Myungdong station/ Go out via exit #3/ Take the left fork in front of the Pacific hotel and walk for 1-2 minutes. You will see a small coffee shop with a big window on your left.)

Hours: 10am to 10pm

Website: http://jeonscoffee.co.kr/next

Phone: (82) 2-778-0675

MSP greats #2, Patisserie 46

Early morning with a just-baked baguette or a warm and flaky croissant and a cup of double espresso macchiato – these are some of my favorite things in the world. I get happy just thinking of them. Recently I found a very happy place that makes wonderful baguettes, croissants, and French tarts and pastries along with decent espresso drinks, called “Patisserie 46.” (I found it while reading a magazine about Minneapolis.)

Patisserie 46 is located in a nice neighborhood. A tasteful sign that blends well with the red bricks welcomes you.

46

My first visit to Patisserie 46 was during a sunny, cold weekend in late February 2011. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves and it was quite noisy and loud. I asked if I could take photos, and the manager said “yes, of course – fire away!” There were so many people that I shied away from some details, but I think one can get glimpses of this wonderful place via a few of my photos.

I got a piece of quiche Lorraine with organic salad – crunchy, buttery crust filled with nicely balanced egg, cream and bacon bits. The organic salad had a mustard-y dressing and delicious yellow cherry tomatoes! And this was only $7.  My husband got a corned beef and steamed cabbage on baguette for about $6.5. I loved the jute-string presentation, but this sandwich fell a little short compared to the quiche (nothing special or extraordinary, but still good). I also had a chocolate croissant ($2), Canele de Bordeaux ($2.5), and 3 macarons (Pistacchio, Earl Grey, and Mango with white chocolate, $1.75 each)

 

Their double espresso macchiato ($2.75) was good enough – nothing to compare to famous espresso bars, but good for a bakery. No complaints! And the condiment bar has organic cane sugar packs. They source their coffee from Wisconsin’s Great Rivers Roastery, and they use an Astoria machine.

I got their macarons purely out of curiosity. Macarons have become the next best thing after cupcake fad in Korea, and people are crazy about them. I understand that these little meringue cookies are super tricky to make, and the flavor selection can be very interesting. I liked the mango macaroon the best – earl grey was too strong, and pistachio was a bit boring. I think these make a very good dessert option when you’re so full but still wanting something sweet to finish off a meal.

Patisserie 46’s chocolate croissant is awesome – lots of butter flavor, really moist inside, and crusty outside without being too messy.  Canele was good, too. I took home a plain croissant, almond financier, and l’Opera cake as well as a baguette. Their plain croissant was one of the best croissants I have ever had, even compared to the ones in France. The almond financier was also very good. The opera cake was a little bit disappointing as the sheet was too thin and there was too much syrup. I think I will give it another try next time I visit. I am just happy that they carry this fancy little cake! The baguette was also very very good..crusty outside, yeasty and fragrant inside that is moist. I like the baguette at Rustica a little bit more, but both are very good baguettes. Lucky MSP people..!

On my second visit, I bought more macarons, one apricot mousse bomb, and a blood orange tart. The apricot mousse bomb was fantastic! It looked so precious, and it had an amazing construction of custard cream and apricot mousse inside the caramel coating. The taste was so refreshing and complex. I highly recommend this! The blood orange tart, by comparison, was just OK. I also tried three more flavors of macarons – mango and white chocolate, strawberry rhubarb, caramel and orange. These are very well made and just fancy enough (but not too fancy like a foie-gras macaron), but I think I would rather spend my money on more substantial desserts from now on. Macarons are just not my cup of tea. (BTW – someone on an online review site commented that the macarons at Patrick’s are better than Patisserie 46’s. I went to check it out and concluded that really people have different tastes and opinions..)

Other good things: The orange colored walls and dark brown furniture create a warm and playful atmosphere. Nice clerks. They also serve many kinds of chocolates and gelato along with many selections of desserts in the showcase.

Something to keep in mind: Coffee drinks can take a while.  It’s always packed and it’s a very clanking, noisy place. It might overwhelm a first-timer as you need to line up as soon as you enter the store and one of the clerks will ask “Do you know what you want?” before you take a look at the showcase and the tiny little menu items. Oh, and you might experience that many things are sold out as early as 11am.

John Kraus is the owner and the baker of Patisserie 46. Quite famous guy..! I talked to him a little bit on my second visit, and he was so pleasant. (He was the winner of USA Pastry Championship in 2002. You can check out his interview with “Heavy Table” here:  http://heavytable.com/john-kraus-of-patisserie-46/

Also you can check out his short bio here:  http://www.usmenuguide.com/frenchpastryschool.htm

I made a few more visits after my initial 2 visits, and every time I am pleased. I hope this charming neighborhood gem will make many more people happy for many more years!

MSP favorites #1 – Rustica, Minneapolis

I lived in Fargo-Moorhead area for 4 years and visited Minneapolis as much as I could. One of my husband’s cousins lives in MSP, and he gave me a few recommendations including Rustica, Quang’s Vietnamese restaurant, Little Szechuan, Tampopo, and La Belle Vie. I have visited most of them, and finally decided to write about some of them as well as other favorite spots that I discovered on my own. I am starting with the Rustica Bakery.

This bakery is now quite well known to MSP residents. Sometimes the line is too long and the service gets slow, but it’s a pleasant place to visit and enjoy great breads, very good desserts, and simple and good sandwiches. It also serves good coffee- not my favorite, but good enough. The Dogwood coffee used to run a bar here as a part of “Bull Run Coffee”. They used to serve Hario drip and Syphon. Now Dogwood Coffee has their own coffee bar, and Rustica serves only espresso drinks or brewed coffee with a Clover machine. I used to be curious about Clover when it was getting a lot of hype, but I think any coffee brewed with Clover has a bit of muddy texture and unclean flavor.  I think single-serve coffee using Hario or Bonmac has far superior flavor, aroma and texture. Their baristas are well trained and skilled, but the Dogwood espresso blend is not my favorite. (too sour and, strangely enough, soy-bean like flavor..! I think it’s a personal thing.)

If I had to choose, I would pick croissants from the Patisserie 46 (will write about this soon), but Rustica’s croissants are still very flaky and subtly sweet. Any of their breads would make anybody’s day happier. I like their baguette and multi-grain loaves. Try their bread with butter option – you get to choose what you want to eat, except the baguette.

I also like some of their sandwich selections and dessert selections. (Eclairs are good, but a bit too big/ pies good, cookies good.) All in all, this is a great place and I would make sure to visit if I am driving into or leaving MSP. Oh, and don’t forget the fresh squeezed orange juice!

Rustica Bakery: 3224 West Lake Street, Minneapolis/ Tel: 612-822-1119

Monday – Friday: 6:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Website: www.rusticabakery.com