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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dim Sum in Paris: Chine Massena

A few weekends ago before the demands of my program got ridiculously intense I managed to get to Paris for a quick day trip, have an exotic Dim Sum lunch, feel the dizzying after effects of MSG while scurrying around the most crowded Paris shopping mall during les soldes (Gallerie Lafayette + Prime temps, etc.). I know that Paris is the capital of the World in terms of shopping and it would make sense that 50% off sales in Paris would draw a crowd but I couldn't believe these crowds!! The safety sensor machine was going off every 2 mins as people exited stores and I literally felt a little like a lost little pigeon flying around chaos trying to find an open window to escape. Can't really believe I just compared myself to a pigeon but I felt like one... After dealing with parking disasters + the pouring rain with two handsome french men (one of which wasn't wearing a waterproof jacket and was thus soaked after 10 mins) we finally came to a cute pub off the St. Germaine (Cafe de Marche) in the 6th and were served a cold glass of Chardonay from a waiter in overalls :) (Ahhh almost like I was back in the US).

Chine Massena is a Dim Sum restuarant in Paris which can somehow serve up to 800 people (kind of the usual for Dim Sum). It's relatively traditional Dim Sum with a few carts going around and a menu you can easily order off of. I was lucky enough to be with a Cantonese speaking Parisian so we didn't have to ponder over the menu or look hopeless as we tried to pronounce dishes. The menu actually had noodle dishes and soups as well as Dim Sum and it was honestly hard to pass these up because there is nothing I love more than an Asian soup.. Yet, we settled on (Pork Buns- Brioche au porc, gao or shrimp dumplings wrapped in translucent rice flour, cheong fun and a few others).

The restaurant is located in a little Asian shopping mall and it was actually pretty fun walking around, trying a few random dishes, inspecting all the ingredients and frozen fish etc, watching groups of men gathered around a tv betting on horses and eventually buying a few lottery tickets to join in on the action.

Chine Massena was good but not great and didn't compare to San Francisco Dim Sum. It left me ridiculously thirsty and left Reza ridiculously hungry after an hour. Maybe Dim Sum is not so good for you after all.

I included some Wikipedia facts about MSG below b/c it kind of freaks me out a little....


Chine Massena
13, Place de Vénétie
(at the level of 18, Avenue de Choisy)
75013 Paris
Metro: Porte de Choisy

M-Th: 8.45am-11pm
F-Sat: 8.45am-1.30am
Sun: 8.45am-1am

History of MSG:
Asian cooks have been taking advantage of glutamate’s flavor enhancing properties for centuries. It is unclear whether the Chinese or Japanese first discovered that a broth made from a certain type of seaweed enhanced the natural flavor of food. But it wasn't until 1908 that Professor Ikeda of the University of Tokyo first isolated glutamate from broth made with dried Konbu kelp. (He went on to create and patent Monosodium glutamate, or MSG).

How is MSG Made Today?:

Today, the MSG we find on store shelves is usually made from fermented sugar beet or sugar cane molasses, in a process quite similar to the way soy sauce is made.

Why is MSG So Popular?:

It all comes down to our taste buds. It has long been known that there are four basic tastes - sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It is now thought that there is a fifth taste, called "umami." Umami is the savory taste that occurs naturally in foods such as tomatoes and ripe cheese. Just as eating chocolate stimulates the sweet taste receptors on our tongue, eating food seasoned with MSG stimulates the glutamate or "umami" receptors on our tongue, enhancing the savory flavor of these foods.

MSG Use in Cooking:

MSG is used extensively in Japanese cooking, where it is sold under the brand name Ajinomoto, and in Chinese restaurant food. MSG use, however, is not confined to Asian cuisine. Ajinomoto is a very popular seasoning in North America, where it is sold under the brand name Accent. Throughout the food industry, MSG is becoming an increasingly popular way to add flavor to packaged foods such as soups, sauces, seasonings, and instant snacks.

What are the Health Concerns?:

Many experts blame MSG for "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" - the headaches, dizziness, and chest pains some people experience after dining at a Chinese restaurant. There is a debate among the scientific community over whether MSG is the culprit. While the U.S. FDA states thatMSG is generally safe, it acknowledges the seasoning may pose problems for certain individuals. Specifically, asthmatics and people who can tolerate small, but not large, amounts of MSG may be at risk.

Should You Use MSG?:

Even if you don't experience negative side effects, is there any need for you to use MSG when preparing Chinese dishes? Again, the experts disagree. Some cooks argue that a well cooked meal using fresh vegetables doesn't need enhancing. Others do use it occasionally. However, I think I'll leave the last word on the subject to two experts. First, Irene Kuo, author of The Key to Chinese Cooking, considered by many to be the definitive guide to cooking Chinese food:
"While "taste-essence" is of Chinese heritage, it was never accepted by the elite society of gastronomy where cooking skill and lavish use of natural ingredients are the essence. Today's version is a chemical compound known as monosodium glutamate or MSG and to me it does nothing to enhance flavor. Rather it gives food a peculiar sweetened taste that I find absolutely distasteful, and for some people it has unpleasant side effects.”

Ken Hom, popular television chef and author of numerous Chinese cookbooks, has a slightly different view: "Scientists still are not sure how this chemical works, but it does seem to bring out the natural salt flavor of foods and can help revive or enliven the taste of bland food and old vegetables...The very best chefs, cooks, and restaurants, however, avoid MSG and rely instead, as they should, on the freshest and finest ingredients that need no enhancing." (From The Taste of China).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Longhi's (on the Island of Maui) inspired salad-Romaine, Sweet Onion, Tomato, Canelli Bean

Deep in the cold of a winter in France & filled with stress from hours spent laboring over Corporate Finance in an intensive MBA program, I can't help but day dream about Maui, Longhi's restaurant and this salad which I love :) Its very simple, bright, healthy and quick to make. Romaine gives you the perfect amount of crunch and the canelli beans add in a hint of softness complimented by the acidity of the Dijon + vinegar and the sweetness of the onion.

Longhi's (a chic, old school Italian institution oddly placed in the land of pineapples and tuna poke) is one of my favorite restaurants on the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. Actually it might be my favorite Italian restaurant in general. Longhi's has a traditional concept of a speaking menu (which I know might leave some of you feeling quite anxious because you essentially have nothing to mull over or flip through) but I personally adore the concept as it not only leaves you trusting your waiters opinion and truly listening to each descriptive + mouthwatering culinary word out of his month but also leaves you feeling quite relaxed, like you're eating in your own cozy Hawaiian home. I think it's a unique concept to sit down at a restaurant, quickly ponder over what type of food you feel like, then listen as the server goes over the different possible, mouthwatering & delectable preparations. Don't you think it would be nice to go back to this traditional ordering concept? I think it could be a good idea and coincide perfectly with the new renewable.. sustainable food trend or reality (only buy local, reduce your carbon footprint etc) by reducing some paper consumption through eliminating daily menu printing :)What do you think? Feel free to comment

Longhi's Inspired Salad

Serves 4

1/2 to a whole cup canelli beans
1 or 2 heads Romaine lettuce
1 cup green beans
6 grape tomatoes
1/2 a sweet Maui onion (if you can find it or a red onion)


2 Tbls Red wine vinegar
a few oil packed anchovies (optional)
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 shallot
a handfull of gorgonzola cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Wash and dry the lettuce with paper towels and place it in the fridge. I think is a secret yet important step because a truly great salad is quite cold. Next rinse the beans in water and get rid of all that yucky starchy + salty fluid they reside in. Next wash and chop the tomatoes and thinly slice the onion. Quickly steam the green beans, removing them after a few minutes so they are still a little crunchy, throw them into an ice bath to quickly stop their cooking + reserve.


Next whip up the dressing . Thinly slice + chop the shallot, add the tsp of mustard and vinegar and lastly mash the anchovies up with a fork into the mixture . Slowly whisk in the oil, throw in a little gorgonzola and salt and pepper. Next chop up the lettuce into bite size pieces, add the green beans, cannelli beans, handful more of gorgonzola and mix with the dressing. Voilà!

888 Front Street, Lahaina - (808) 667-2288

Friday, January 22, 2010

Butternut Squash, Roasted Red Bell Pepper, Pesto and Parmesan Terrain

I love this simple, healthy, vegetarian terrine. It has the perfect balance between acidicity of the roasted bell peppers, mild sweetness of the squash, nutty pesto and the light soft richness of a souffle. I think it's perfect for a cold winter day or also a great light vegetarian option after you've spent your week ingesting a lot of greasy meat.

Butternut Squash, Red Bell Pepper, Pesto Terrine
Serves 6

2 1/2 pounds butternut squash
1 large red bell pepper
2 eggs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbls nutmeg
Fresh pesto
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the squash lengthwise into 2 pieces. Scoop out the seeds. Melt some butter and brush the butter all over the squash and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg. Place squash cut side down in the pan and cook for about 40 mins. At the same time scorch the peppers with an open flame over the stove until each side is black. Immediately place the peppers in a small paper bag and close tightly. The peppers will steam and cook further inside the bag and the skin should be easy to peel off after about 10 mins. Cut the peppers into a few inch long strips. Scoop out the insides of the squash and reserve in a large boil.

In that large bowl stir together the squash, a little olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and salt. Transfer mixture to a 2 inch quart gratin dish or a different shallow baking dish and sprinkle all over with Parmesan.

Increase the oven temp to 400 and bake casserole in middle of oven until squash is tender and top is golden, about 1 hour.

Take squash out and using a round rather large cookie cutter (Or an empty soup can for shape) cut squash into small round pieces. Arrange squash, then a layer of horizontal roasted peppers, then pesto and a sprinkles of parmesean. Repeat one more time and garnish with parsley a touch more of parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cute Vintage

I know that sometimes you wander into a vintage clothing store and find yourself loving a few pieces but leaving empty handed because you are innately turned off by the fact that the cute sweater you were about to buy smells like your 87 year old grandpa. I indeed have the same problem. Yet, I know that I need to get over it because I am slowly developing a euphemism for old elegant clothes from decades earlier that have timeless design.

I heart this vintage clothing company, Nadinoo. It's from British designer, Nadia Izruna and celebrates women of the past decades. Her clothing mixes the perfect combination of femininity, style, trend and chicness. I love the colors, materials and frills. If you feel like you are in a clothing slump you could definitely add some uniqueness to your wardrobe + life with a few of these mignon little pieces.


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