Sunday, September 25, 2011

Around the World Lunch - September 5th, 2011

After a short hiatus, the Foodist Colony is back...and this time, we shared with our guests our version of
"How We Spent Our Summer Vacation."

Alka and her sister at a cooking class
in Bangkok, Thailand

Between the three of us, we were lucky enough to travel to some amazing places over the last few months, including Germany (Roompa and Guru), Thailand/Laos/Cambodia (Alka), and Portugal (all of us). We made sure to eat and drink prodigiously — all in the name of research, of course! We even managed to sneak in a little cooking...

Roompa and Guru at a kafeehaus in Baden Baden, Germany 


Back home in New York City, we treated our guests to a lunch highlighting the flavors and memories of our trips around the world.

First Course: German Biergarten
We started off in Germany, where Roompa and Guru spent some time visiting cousins in early June. We brought the biergarten to Brooklyn with a refreshing summer shandy, a blend of German ale and freshly squeezed lemonade. As our biergarten snack, we served homemade pretzels, soft and warm from the oven, with a side of obatzda.
Homemade pretzel and obatzda cheese dip
Obatzda is a classic cheese spread from Germany's Bavarian region. Our version featured camembert and mascarpone flavored with roasted garlic and onions, sweet and smoked paprika, caraway seeds, and (of course) beer, then garnished with paprika, black olives, and radishes.

Second Course: Only in America
We didn't only travel abroad this summer. Guru and Roompa spent some time in Austin and Houston, Texas, visiting his sister, and Alka spent time in California visiting hers. So what do Texas, California, and New York have in common (other than being great places to visit or live)? We sampled one of the newest American fusion foods in all three places: Korean tacos. We have a feeling that this is one delicious culinary trend that's here to stay, and we just had to bring it to the Foodist Colony.

Plating up the Korean tacos!

Guru puts on the finishing touches
The tacos started with a warm flour tortilla and dak bulgogi, a traditional Korean chicken preparation. We marinated our bulgogi in a mixture of garlic, ginger, Asian pear, gochujang (Korean chili paste), and other spices.

Next we added some homemade kimchi, a staple of Korean cuisine. Ours featured Napa cabbage and romaine lettuce seasoned with salt, garlic, chili flakes, and other spices and then fermented for several days. We also spooned in a relish made of sliced onions, Asian pears, scallions, and carrots tossed in a sesame vinaigrette. Our taco was topped with a Korean-inspired salsa roja — made with roasted tomatoes and tomatilloes, gochujang, onions, garlic, ginger, and red chiles — and a sprinkle of chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Our guests enjoying the meal
Third Course: The Big Mango
The Big Mango is an affectionate nickname for Bangkok, Thailand. The third course in our global lunch took our guests across the Pacific to this amazing city for some authentic Thai flavors.

Alka spent about three weeks in Thailand over the summer and took cooking classes in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai. For those of you who find yourselves in Bangkok and would like to try a cooking class, or just try some amazing Thai vegetarian food, she highly recommends May Kaidee's. She not only visited May's some six times while in Thailand, but also (fortunately for the Foodist Colony) took a class and bought the cookbook.

Massaman curry, papaya salad, and steamed rice
Tom yum vodka cocktail

There are as many different ways to make Thai curry as there are cooks to make it. For our third course, we blended what Alka learned at Thai cooking schools with some of our own twists to create a spicy massaman curry and som tam (papaya salad).

Our massaman curry featured South Asian influences along with traditional Thai flavors: cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon, and star anise in the traditional red curry paste. We added fresh eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes, and marinated tofu for a vibrant veggie version of the dish. The papaya salad, or som tam, is sometimes called Thailand's national dish, for good reason. The spicy, sweet, and sour mixture of grated green papaya, lime juice, tomato, soy sauce, and chiles is amazingly addictive — and a great fresh side dish with the curry.

Harish, Lisa, Thao, and Shilpa toasting with Thai cocktails

Traditional Thai accompaniments: sour, salty, sweet, and spicy

We also served a Thai cocktail, reminiscent of one Alka sampled during her travels. Our tom yum cocktail mimicked the flavors of tom yum soup, blending coconut water with vodka infused with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chiles.

Dessert: Portuguese Pleasures
For our final course, we visited Portugal. Guru, Roompa, and Alka all had the pleasure of attending a beautiful wedding this summer in Sintra, Portugal, and also spent some time exploring Lisbon and the gorgeous Algarve coast. We wanted to pay homage to our wonderful time there (and our equally wonderful Portuguese friends!) with an Iberian-influenced dessert.

Harish, Lisa, and Thao enjoy cookies and ice cream

Portuguese desserts are often egg-based, and common flavorings are lemon, cinnamon, or honey. And, of course, a glass of port after a meal is traditional in Portugal. 

So we cooled off after the spicy main courses with a homemade fig-and-port ice cream, served with a honey-and-fennel cookie. We took fresh figs and cooked them down into a jam-like consistency with lemon and port, and then blended the mixture with milk and egg custard to create the ice cream.

Finally, as no Foodist Colony event is complete without a little surprise, we presented our guests with a European-style treat of sliced fresh figs, stilton cheese, and ruby-red port wine — a genuine "porto," a designation reserved for only those port wines made in Portugal. 
A perfect ending to the meal

Ajith, Deepali, and Kevin enjoy the
spirited post-lunch banter

Yum yum — tom yum!

Thanks to all of our amazing guests for making this such a great lunch. We had a fabulous time sharing our travel experiences with you, and we look forward to the next Foodist Colony event!

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