Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Coconut Quinoa Banana Muffins

I tried this recipe from Coffee & Quinoa as I've been looking for ways to use up quinoa in baked goods, and I had some overripe bananas. While the flavor was good, unfortunately the muffins (I baked muffins instead of a loaf to save time) were very dense. I think this is so because the recipe calls for baking soda, and I don't see an acid amongst the ingredients to activate the baking soda. I think I'll work on modifying Smitten Kitchen's Crackly Banana Bread instead, which I've baked before and is quite good.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Dine: Bistro1979 at Hotel ICON (Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong)

I dined at Bistro1979 at the Hotel ICON as part of a corporate event. Bistro 1979 is a student operated restaurant of the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU). I was told that only guests of the hotel, as well as members of the PolyU community, may dine at Bistro1979, but the website indicates that anyone may make a reservation when the service is available, as with any restaurant affiliated with a culinary school. I highly recommend dining there if you get the opportunity.

We were served a fragrant slice of warm pumpkin bread with butter to start, followed by a tasty, if not particularly memorable, bowl of cream of cauliflower and celeriac soup. The soup apparently came with a sweet corn purée and buttered popcorn, but obviously I didn't really notice it. If I wasn't trying to control my intake of bread, I would've tried to filch another slice of the pumpkin bread - it was that good.

Grilled seabass fillet with beetroot purée, honey beans, brussels sprouts, and blue cheese crumble
I found the fish excellent - the fish itself I thought was almost Chinese in flavor, although all of the accompaniments were Western. While I didn't care for the blue cheese crumble, which was the dollop of sauce pictured on top of the fish, that was easily shoved to the side. What was called "honey beans" on the menu is what I'd call sugar snap peas. The vegetables were great.

Dulce de leche with pan-fried vanilla egg brioche and sweet potato sorbet
Dessert was my favorite - I'm not sure what was the dulce de leche part (perhaps the sauce on the sorbet?) but the brioche, in combination with the berries, fruit coulis, and sorbet, was awesome. This was the most memorable dish I had while I was in Hong Kong.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stay: Grand Hyatt Taipei

Recently, we had a one-night staycation at the Grand Hyatt Taipei. Due to Mr. Nomad Foodie's Globalist status with the new World of Hyatt rewards program, we were upgraded to a suite. I didn't take many photos of the suite, as those are plentiful on the web and the renovated rooms were as lovely as pictured, with a powder room to the immediate right of the entry, a spacious living area that led to the bedroom via a sliding door, and from the bedroom, a walk-in closet and spacious bathroom. I kept thinking, this would make a great bachelorette pad - in fact, I spent much of my stay fantasizing what (minor) changes I'd make if I indeed were a young singleton living in such a fantastic space (remove a TV, add a few bookshelves and perhaps a dresser).

The bed was quite comfortable, much more than the very hard bed I encountered when I stayed at the Far Eastern, and I slept well.

The bathroom was huge and took nice advantage of the odd dimensions due to the bend in the exterior hallway and the room's location in a corner of the building.

There was a fancy pants shower control that took me awhile to figure out but was actually quite clever once I did because the water came out quite quickly at exactly the right temperature. Here's where "upgraded" amenities are a minus for me: I actually quite like the June Jacobs line of toiletries at Grand Hyatt hotels, and found the Ferragamo Tuscan Soul line too strongly scented for my liking, as well as too musky - I prefer very light, citrusy, and clean scents. Scent is very personal, though, and it's hard to please everyone (another line whose scent I don't care for is Thann at Marriott).

I was impressed by the evening canapés offered in the club, as well as its breakfast spread. The evening offerings were quite extensive, and healthier than expected, with lots of vegetable heavy options and a minimum of fried items. The offerings during our stay: shrimp dumpling, sweet and sour soup, pork stuffed zucchini, roasted vegetables, apple chicken salad, roasted tomato salad, smoked salmon, and a salad bar with sugar snap peas. Unfortunately the tortilla chips were stale. 

The dessert choices were plentiful, and as characteristic of the Grand Hyatt Taipei (the dessert lineup at their buffet restaurant, the Grand Cafe, has always been a favorite), excellent: strawberry tart, lemon meringue tart, blueberry cheesecake, matcha red bean cake roll, Earl Grey madelines, and pecan tart. There was also a selection of freshly pressed juices: carrot, watermelon, grapefruit, and orange.

We also enjoyed the hotel pool on both days. The outdoor pool is heated, with a separate section for children's bit warmer than the main pool. The children enjoyed it greatly, and had to be dragged out. Although there's no lifeguard, the friendly pool attendant kept an eye out for my children while I put our belongings on a lounger. All the staff we encountered were hospitable.

The location is great, in the heart of the Xinyi District, so besides being adjacent to many great restaurants and a new food truck pod, one could also just walk around to soak up the atmosphere and be entertained by the buskers and people-watching.

We had a great stay--the kids ask to go back often--and I highly recommend the Grand Hyatt to visitors to Taipei.