Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Mason Jar

After months of talking about this place, my co-worker and I finally came here over the holidays.  It's a little hard to find if you're not looking for it (there's only like 3 parking spots and 1.5 of them were taken up by a Smart Car-don't get me started).  The place is quaint and it feels like you're in someone's kitchen.  The service is great, our waiters were really nice (they get brownie points because they complimented me on my mustard yellow peacoat).  The food here is comfort food; slow cooking and done right.

Tomato Soup with Goat Cheese and Bacon
We got the tomato, goat cheese and bacon soup to start.  This is a heavy soup.  I went into the place absolutely staving and I was full by the end of this soup.  It's creamy and rich from the goat cheese; the bacon finishes very nicely.  It's small but its a meal in itself.  

We went halfsies (I like to try everything so I usually try to go halfsies everywhere I go; otherwise I'll just end up eating other people's food anyways) on a Meatloaf Sandwich served with Brussel Sprouts sauteed with Pistachios and a Smoked Jalapeno Tuna Salad.

Meatloaf Sandwich; Brussel Sprouts with Pistachios

The Meatloaf sandwich was classic, although I had to stop 3 bites into it because I was so full from the soup. Crusty baguette with a perfect slice of mealoaf.  The brussel sprouts were the winner here.  They were sauteed in butter but the pistachios really brought out the butteryness of everything.  Highly recommend.

Smoke Jalapeno Tuna Salad

We had a long discussion about the Smoke Jalapeno Tuna Salad - was the jalapeno smoked or was the tuna?!  It was the Jalapeno.  The salad was yummy, although I hate to say, it was nothing overly special about it.  

Overall, it was a nice change of pace from the normal lunch scene. 

The Mason Jar Cafe on Urbanspoon

Myung Ga Tofu

It was a rainy Sunday night in West when the inaugural meeting of the self-proclaimed Fort Lauderdale Eating Club was rightfully initiated with the clinks of roasted barley tea. And so starts a series adventure of eating with delightful dishes with wonderful friends every Sunday at 7pm. Myung Ga Tofu & Barbecue is small and hidden in a small shopping center on the edge of the Everglades but on this night, it was filled with local families sitting down for their Sunday dinners. The place is small, quaint, and humbly decorated with Korean themes – a decorated awning over the kitchen, small banners and Korean dolls are a reminder of home.

The chairman (never ‘chairman’, always ‘the' chairman’) ordered Kimchee Pancakes for the table.  These were slightly different from the other pancakes I have had before; they seemed to have more sweet potato flour than tapioca or rice flour.  Nonetheless, they were absolutely the perfect starter.  The tangy, spicy and pungent kimchee is rightly muted by the light airy dough.  It came was a soy sauce based dipping sauce which rounded off the pancake nicely with the added salty umami-ness.  

Next to arrive was our selection of side dishes – kimchee, pickled cucumbers, soy beans, macaroni salad, and a small salad.  I have to admit, this is not the best selection of side dishes, and the macaroni salad is out of place, but the kimchee and pickled cucumber salad was perfect.  The side dishes whet our appetite while we discussed the rule of our eating club.  I was deemed to be the Duchess of Debauchery. 
Our main courses arrived with flair and steam, the two tofu soups (I got the seafood, beef, and soft tofu soup and the other was a kimchee tofu soup) we ordered were literally bubbling over.  We immediately cracked open our eggs and mixed them in there while the soup was boiling.  The Chairman got the combo with came with a (literal) steel basin of cabbage beef soup and a half order sizzling short ribs.  We also got the beef bulgogi. 
My soup was served in a cast iron pot, with large portions of beef and seafood but the majority of the soup was tofu.  I would probably as for a little more broth next time but every bite I had was wonderful.  The soup was spicy, slightly sour, and garlicky; it was pure comfort food to me.  Chicken noodle has nothing on this; neither does Chuck Norris’ tears.  I ordered my soup extra spicy (level 5 aka native); this might have been a mistake.  It burned terribly but burned so good.  The combination of the hot (temperature) and the hot (spice) was almost overwhelming, but I think it actually made me feel significantly better in some epicurean masochistic manner.  Our waiter warned us about the spice levels, but there was no chance I was going to back down.  The waiter brought out waters for our non-Asian friends, but I didn’t get one so I just treaded on with false bravado. 
So our first meeting came to a close, the Destroyer of Desserts was selected to find our next meeting location.  We parted ways in a monsoon of a storm; stomachs full and burning with spice but feeling warm and comforted.

Myung Ga Tofu & Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Hot Pot in Hollywood; the Asian Fondue

Another great meal for the eating club! Major thanks to Amanda for snagging the Groupon (and for the extending an invite to the club).  I have a little nervous about this place because the online reviews weren't very good.  However the place is new and it seems like those reviews were during their growing pains because our food was excellent.
Our appetizer - Garlic Edemame

For those of you who have not had Hot Pot before, this is the Asian fondue (coq au vin style).  I used to have hot pot all the time at home and Mama Chen makes a mean hot pot.  Standards were set pretty high and this place came close (it's my mom, I can't say anything is better than her cooking).

We had the Hot Pot Groupon for 6 (we actually only had 5 people there) and so we had our choice of 4 different broths (there is only 3 types to choose from), 5 meats, 2 starches and 3 veggies.

We went for half and half of the house special and the spicy on each pot.  Our waitress recommended that we don't get the veggie unless we were hard core vegans- advice taken and thank you.  The house broth was great - savory and salty, it seemed to have notes of miso.  I could just drink that plain.  The spicy was a bit more sour, reminiscent of a Korean kim chee soup.   Keep in mind that the flavor profile of the broths will change as the hot pot goes on and you can also adjust by using the sauces (some sort of fishy 'BBQ' sauce and the hot sauce).

We got the bok choy, napa cabbage and enoki mushrooms for our veggies; meats were beef, chicken, scallops, meat balls, and shrimp.  Our starches were mung bean noodles and rice noodles.  My only recommendation is to skip the chicken; it's too difficult to properly cook it without turning into a rubbery mess.  Everything else was great.

This is a great meal to share with friends.  It's interactive and social and there's so much going on.  You can cook our own food, scavenge for other people's forgotten bits, or sip on delish soup.  Highly recommend and they're going to be adding more to their menu and have a karaoke room!

Dessert - Beignets!

The Hot Pot on Urbanspoon