Build a Home Mini-Bar, Part 1: The Basics

How to Build a Home Mini-Bar: Part 1, BasicsWhether you enjoy the occasional cocktail or you frequently partake in a nice, stiff sipper, nothing says welcome home (or welcome TO my home) like a well-stocked bar. In the first of this three-part series, I’ll go over how I got my own personal mini-bar started, so that you too can indulge your Mad Men fantasy (drinks, not the crazy affairs or chain smoking).

In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit that this idea (as well as the initial components) were the brainchild of my fabulous girlfriend Winnie. While I’ve always enjoyed a well-crafted cocktail, taking the time to prepare and build an elaborate drink always seemed too complicated, considering a nice beer would satiate the same need. However, for this past Christmas, W decided I should get a bit more classy and gifted me the beginnings of a minibar, including a serving/storing tray, a cocktail set, and some quality liquors.

So onto Part 1: The Basics. What you need to get started:

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Recipe: Pipa Tofu (Fried Tofu Shrimp Balls)

DarwinDiscovered_PipaTofu-10Tofu. Shrimp. Fried-ness. What’s not to love? You probably won’t find pipa tofu on your standard Chinese carryout menu (but are you really eating that crap? *puts on judging goggles*). If you’re at a higher end restaurant you might see it on the menu- if not, ask the waiter and they will hopefully know what you’re talking about. Or you could take off your lazy pants and whip this up at home. I made these for a friend that stayed with us for the weekend a while back, and she asked to eat leftovers of this for two meals (in addition to dinner). Yea, they’re pretty tasty.

But first off, the question you’ve all been wondering: what is a ‘pipa’? Good question, friends. A pipa (pronounced PEE -pah) is a traditional Chinese string instrument that looks like so:

pipa

Pipa tofu is named after the pipa’s shape, but in reality I think the tofu ends up taking on an oval shape as it gets fried. Maybe that’s just a commentary on my frying abilities.

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DarwinDiscovered_PipaTofu-9Basically you gather some ingredients together, mash them all up, form them into little pipa shapes – *cough* oval – and fry. You can deep fry the tofu, and it will taste amazeballs. Or you can opt for the healthier option and pan fry them instead. They’ll still taste amazeballs. Your call.

DarwinDiscovered_PipaTofu-8 Serve the pipa tofu on a bed of bok choy or Shanghai bok choy, and accompanying sauce on top.

Ingredients and recipe after the jump.

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Recipe: Cantonese Wonton Soup

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Let’s talk about comfort food. A piping hot bowl of broth, flavored with fragrant sesame oil and tender loving care. Baby bok choy greens. A satisfied tummy. And wontons…lots of wontons.

Literally translated,  ‘wonton’ means ‘swallowing a cloud’. While various Chinese regional cuisines have their separate interpretations of wontons, I’m going to talk about Cantonese wontons today- because that’s what I crave when comfort food-itis pops up. Growing up, I recall skipping around the kitchen, helping (okay, pestering) my mother and grandmother as they folded a batch of wontons. You don’t make a single serving of wontons. Instead, you make as many as you have wrappers for (a typical pack contains around 75) and freeze the remainder. This makes wontons an excellent now and later dish.

Folding wontons requires an itty-bitty learning curve, but goes quickly once you get the hang of it. If you’re with a group of friends or have willing minions, the wontons are folded even quicker. Wonton folding party, anyone?

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

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Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Darwin, Discovered- Wonton Recipe

Recipe after the jump.

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Portland: Waffle Window

The Waffle Window
3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR

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Portland is well known for its many breakfast destinations. Whether you’re looking for simple cafes, fancy coffee shops (stump town), crazy donuts (voodoo), or a hearty sit down brunch, Portland has something for everyone. The Waffle Window is another quick and delicious breakfast option, an unassuming (literal) hole in the wall next to the Bread and Ink Cafe, serving up crisp, golden waffles topped with sweet and savory ingredients.

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(Above: my brother and I deciding from the selection of delectable treats)

Our choices on this particular morning included:

  • The Whole Farm” – thick cut pepper bacon, sauteed mushrooms, spinach, roasted peppers, roasted tomatoes, and chevre cheese atop a crispy, sugared Portland-style Liege waffle;
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Dipped Waffle – waffle with creamy peanut butter with generously drizzled chocolate;
  • The Rose City” – fresh local strawberries, rose cream, whipped cream, and a rhubarb sauce set on a sugar waffle;
  • Cold Chocolate Dipped Waffle – dipped in chocolate and refrigerated, this is exactly what it sounds like – a chocolate covered sugar waffle!

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(left: The Rose City; center: Peanut Butter Chocoloate; right: The Whole Farm)

The sweetness of the sugar waffles provided a delicate contrast to many of the savory ingredients, which is why I think The Whole Farm and its cousins (a bacon-less Farm Fusion, a spicy bacon cheddar jalapeno, and a Bacon/Brie/Basil with peach jam) are must-haves when you come to Waffle Window. Not to mention the fresh fruit in the Rose City, their complex selection of dessert waffles (blueberry cheesecake or waffle ice cream sandwich, anyone?), and you can’t forget to take a cold chocolate dipped one for snacking on the road.

With all prices lower than $6 (mostly in the $4.50-5.50 range), this is a breakfast that won’t blow your budget. And while you are around, check out the neighbouring Hawthorne District, a fun and ecclectic area to explore in SE Portland.

Portland Sights: International Rose Test Garden

I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves for this post. The test garden has been around for close to 100 years, and the folks here know their flowers. Best of all? It’s free! Bring a book, find a bench, and smell the roses.

DSC01265-77  DSC01266-78DSC01268-79DSC01272-80DSC01274-81DSC01292-85  DSC01278-82DSC01279-83DSC01281-84DSC01295-86DSC01297-87DSC01307-88DSC01318-91  DSC01314-90DSC01319-92DSC01320-93DSC01329-96Want more things to do in Portland? Check out these other posts:

10 Things to Do in Portland

Weekend Snapshots, Portland Edition

Travel Notes: Destin, Florida

Travel Notes: Destin, Florida

Tucked away in the Florida Panhandle on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay lies Destin, otherwise known as “the world’s luckiest fishing village.” If you’re Destin-ation bound (heehee), Destin’s white sands and emerald green waters are sure to please. Here are our notes from our weekend in Destin. Have fun!

Getting There and Around

The closest airport to Destin is Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS), followed by Pensacola (PNS) and Panama City (ECP). VPS is approximately 20 minutes away from Destin, while PNS and ECP are approximately 1 hour away. You’ll need a car to get around; I didn’t see much by the way of public transportation.

Stay

We stayed at the Country Inn & Suites by Carlson for 28,000 Club Carlson points. The hotel was no-frills, but it had free Internet and breakfast, so for 28k points you can’t really complain. It is located across from Henderson Beach State Park and right in the middle of Destin, so location was ideal. The hotel also had free fresh-baked Otis Spunkmeyer cookies nightly!

Travel Notes: Destin, Florida

Eat

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