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Cooking with Fel – Potato and Leek Soup

February 3, 2011

I have a slight obsession with leeks. Ever since I bought one when making chicken stock for an ex, I’ve wanted to buy a big ole bunch and cook with them. However, at the start of this obsession, they were $2 a stalk (I remember the local Ralphs only carried organic ones, which is why they were so freaking expensive) and they definitely were not as pretty as the ones you find at the farmer’s market in the fall. So, when I discovered cheap leeks, I went insane – Leek tarts! Leeks in frittatas and quiches! The possibilities were endless!

My first leek recipe ended up being a simple, easy-to-make potato and leek soup. It uses no cream and very little butter so it’s nice and light and healthy. However, be sure to use fresh leeks and salt and pepper liberally or else you might find the soup to be slightly bland. Also, if you’re feeling extra leek-y (as I typically do), double the number leeks for twice the flavor!

Potato and Leek Soup
Modified from: Gourmet, March 1992


* the white and pale green part of 2 large leeks, split lengthwise, washed well, and chopped
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 2 1/2 chicken broth
* 1 pound boiling, potatoes
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves


In a large heavy saucepan cook the leeks in the butter with salt and pepper to taste, covered, over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are softened but not browned. Add the broth and the potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. In a blender purée 1 cup of the soup, stir the purée into the remaining soup with the parsley, and season the soup with salt and pepper.

Yield: About 4 cups, serving 2 generously.

Top Flr (Atlanta, GA) – Thankfully, Not A Missed Opportunity

February 2, 2011

During my Atlanta trip in the middle of 2010, I spent approximately:
– 24 hours by myself
– 72 hours with coworkers

I love my coworkers to death but I’m not going to lie – I’m a little leery of their dining choices. Some of them are like me, and are willing to explore the city to find that one good restaurant. Others are much more culinarily conservative – ask them where they want to go for dinner in Atlanta and there’s a 99% chance they’ll suggest “Waffle House”. That’s why, whenever I go on a work-related trip, I always make a list of my “must-go”s and hit those up before anyone else shows up…Who knows where I’d end up otherwise!

Now, 24 hours isn’t a lot of time to check out restaurants and there were a lot of places that I really wanted to go to but just couldn’t squeeze in, as much as I tried. Top Flr was originally one of these places. However, thanks to a little bit of luck (and because my foodie coworkers are better group organizers than my non-foodie coworkers), I was still able to try Top Flr that week.

Before I get to the food, just gotta say that service at Top Flr was great considering the circumstances. Our group of 25 descended upon that restaurant with no reservations, just a phone call saying “We’ll be there in an hour. Be prepared.” They had a space ready for us when we got there and took care of our needs as best they could (given there were, from what I could see, only 3 of them working the entire restaurant). They were troopers! I gotta give them credit for that.


Anyway, onto the food! Although most of our group ordered for themselves, my little table quartet ordered family style so we were able to try a larger range of dishes. (I’d highly recommend doing this if you end up going yourself – the portion sizes are perfect for sharing.)

We started with the beet salad: Sweet beets, goat cheese – it’s a classic combination. I appreciated the orange vinaigrette, which added that tinge of citrus to the salad.

The tuna tartare was next, piled high on a crispy flat bread and layered with avocado. The dish was good but the flavors were standard – nothing out of the ordinary.

The last of our starters was the Top Flr mac and cheese. I already adore mac and cheese made with orecchiette because the indentations in the pasta capture more flavor than normal macaroni. Top Flr’s version has an additional twist – jalapenos are strewn about the dish, giving it a kick of spice but not so much to ruin of the taste of everything else to come.

As for the entrees, we tried to mix it up with a beef dish, a duck dish and a fish dish. (The salmon – not pictured – was beyond boring compared to these other two plates on the table so I’m not going to touch upon that.)

For a duck confit pizza, they definitely aren’t skimping on the duck. Atop dough smeared with pesto were piles of duck, applewood bacon and grilled portobello mushrooms. Totally savory and completely satisfying.

The oxtail gnocchi was just as satisfying as the pizza. Although the gnocchi themselves were a bit chewy, the flavors were good and I remember trying to steal the last bite from the plate.  (I obviously didn’t mind the texture too much!)

We ended our meal with the pineapple panna cotta – a light ending to an enjoyable meal.


What I loved most about Top Flr was that the food wasn’t the only thing that was good – the drinks here are AMAZING. I even told the bartender afterwards that he made some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. My favorite was a drink composed of pistachio milk, a house-infused rosemary vodka, agave nectar and egg-white froth. Originally skeptical of the combination, once I tried a taste of their lavender infused vodka – floral, aromatic and not at all overbearing, perfectly incorporated into the rest of the drink – I knew they knew what they were doing and ordered it.

I still rant about this drink now. Creamy, hints of cinnamon (although I later discovered that “cinnamon” taste was actually from the bitters in the drink), with just the right amount of sweetness – absolutely delicious.


So, in the end, I still got to dine at Top Flr while in Atlanta. (So happy I didn’t miss out!) Not only that, I had a great night with my coworkers/friends…and what’s better than good food and good company?

Top Flr
674 Myrtle St NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 685-3110

Top Flr on Urbanspoon

Cooking with Fel – Beet Cake

January 12, 2011

I think I’m picking up bad habits from the mother.

I love the mom – she’s a generous, giving person and one of my biggest influences in life – but her attitude towards food cannot be any further from my own. I’m willing to splurge on tasting menu at a nice restaurant whereas she will cook a gigantic pot of rice and eat it every day for a week. She also has a tendency to never follow a recipe completely.

“Sugar? Do we really need that much? I think I’ll cut that in half.
Butter? That much butter can’t be good for you – I’m just going to cut that out entirely.
Now to add in some nuts and bran and oats and for nutritional purposes…”

Well, I definitely pulled a mom on this recipe.

I had this beet lying around my kitchen that was starting to go soft and I didn’t feel like roasting it. I had seen recipes online for a beet cake and thought it couldn’t hurt to give one of them a try. Most recipes call for chocolate to accompany (mask?) the beet flavor but this particular recipe by Tyler Florence was a pure beet cake. However, I made a few swaps…

“The recipe calls for brown sugar? I have none, so I’ll just use white.
Buttermilk? I only have non-fat – that’ll do, I guess.
Molasses? Do I need to buy molasses? I’ll just use maple syrup.
Now to incorporate some whole wheat flour in the place of the all-purpose flour and use applesauce instead of oil…”

(Sound familiar?)

Honestly, I was expecting this cake to fall flat but surprisingly enough…the end result wasn’t half bad! The beets give an interesting touch to the final product – similar to carrot cake or zucchini bread, you get a hint of earthy vegetable in every bite, which does take a little bit to get used to. I’d imagine the real deal is a smoother flavor, which is why I’m including the original recipe below for you to try yourself. However, if you start swapping this for that, don’t worry! You’ll still be okay.

Beet Cake

* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, to grease baking pans
* 1 1/4 cups finely chopped red beets
* 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* a pinch of kosher salt
* 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
* 2 large eggs
* 1/2 cup buttermilk
* 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Begin by lightly greasing 4 individual baking dishes with butter (oven proof ramekins or cocotte dishes work well). Peel beets and cut into pieces so they can fit comfortably in a food processor.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, mix molasses, eggs, buttermilk, oil and sugar together. Now mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients and then fold in the processed beets.

Set ramekins out on a roasting tray. Divide batter amongst ramekins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until they have puffed up and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Best of 2010

January 6, 2011

*looks at the title of this post*
*looks at the date in the corner of her screen*

In true Food Ledger fashion, I’m writing my 2010 recap at the end of the first week 2011. (Oops!) But I figured I should have some kind of recap for the year…

Looking back, 2010 was full of transition in more ways than one – not only did I move to a new city and find a new job, I also rediscovered my love for good, cheap eats. Out of all the establishments I’ve eaten at this year, I surprisingly remember the casual hole-in-the-walls more so than the Michelin starred restaurants. Not to say I didn’t go to some fantastic high end establishments…but I guess my palate is just getting tired nowadays. (Palate fatigue – oh, what first world woes!)

Anyway, I’m already behind so I’m going to skip the introductory blabber.  Here’s my list!


The Food Ledger’s Best of 2010

(Similar to my 2009 review, the following only contains restaurants I ate at for the first time in 2010. Not discovered in 2010, not on the list!)

Fine Dining (Still) Rocks My Socks

(The reason Eleven Madison Park is #1.)

  1. Eleven Madison Park (NYC) – I’ve been debating about #1 and #2 on this list since the middle of the year but, deep down, I knew it would go to EMP. Sure, its gourmand menu (which was sadly replaced by a new menu a couple months later) could have been considered the ideal tasting menu; I seriously loved every dish, from start to finish. But the real reason EMP is placed at the top is because of one single bite: the pea lollipop. My favorite dish of 2010, my fondness for that bite can only be compared to my first gastronomic epiphany at Hatfield’s (and you never forget your first!).
  2. The Dining Room at The Langham (LA) – My meal at The Dining Room was gluttony at its finest. 22 courses, who knows how many glasses of wine, 5+ hours of pure indulgence. Not only did I get to taste every bite (+1!) on the menu, but I also had the opportunity to experience a one-in-a-lifetime event.
  3. Babbo (NYC) – The distinctive progression of a pasta tasting menu was something I had never imagined prior to Babbo. The range of dishes, the creative combinations of fillings and textures and flavors and the focus on the pasta…I was enlighted by the experience.

Hide Away in a Hole In The Wall

(I discovered my love for Japanese izakayas this year.)

  1. Sake Bar Hagi (NYC) – One of King of my Heart’s (i.e. Anthony Bourdain’s) favorite places in NYC and I have to agree – Sake Bar Hagi is amazing. I love Japanese izakayas because they have such a wide variety of options; no matter what mood you’re in or what you’re craving, they probably have something here for you. The pan fried octopus balls are soft and chewy, the yellowtail collar is huge and fatty, the chicken meatballs are tender and flavorful…I can go on and on. This is where I go for comfort food in NYC.
  2. Ichiza (LV) – Did I mention how much I love izakayas? I think Ichiza is memorable to me because it makes me realize how the best things may be right under your nose and you’d never know it. I mean, I have been to Vegas so many times and I can’t help but think of how many crappy meals could have been replaced if only I had known about Ichiza. If only I had known!
  3. Joan’s on 3rd (LA) – Joan’s is not quite a hole in the wall but it is casual fare that is worth noting. I dropped by to pick up some lunch to go and I remember vividly, sitting in my car and thinking “Oh, I’ll just have a pickle while I wait at this red light.” That tiny nibble turned into “I MUST GET TO MY DESTINATION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE” because it was then I discovered that everything at Joan’s on 3rd is freaking fantastic. It’s hard to explain how its sandwiches and salads are exponentially better than other ones I’ve tried but please – trust me here – they are.

One Bite and I’m Yours

(This had to be mentioned somewhere.)

  1. Marea (NYC) – Uni + lardo = food porn. (If I didn’t include this dish in this post, there’d have to be something wrong with me.)
  2. Momofuku Ssam Bar (NYC) – I may have been skeptical of Momofuku Ssam Bar but its kimchi fuji apples were 100% solid. David Chang did good with this one…
  3. Wafels and Dinges (NYC) – One word: Spekuloos. ‘Nuff said.

I Can’t Live Without

(The man – no, god! – of fish tacos. Ricky himself.)

  1. Ricky’s Fish Tacos (LA) – With Ricky’s, we’re not talking about the best fish taco I’ve had this year or the best fish taco I’ve had in LA. No, we’re talking about the best fish taco I’ve ever had IN LIFE. Ricky’s redefined fish tacos for me, and I’m a better person because of it.

The Restaurant That Needed Its Own Category

(Seriously, where else?)

  1. Petrossian (LA) – I don’t think there will ever be another year when I will consume as much caviar as I have this year. I essentially went to Petrossian every other month, going a total of 6 times during 2010 (and I’m pissed that that’s far less than Danny of Kung Food Panda‘s count). I mean, considering how slow I am at writing reviews (and you know how slow I am at writing reviews!), I have three reviews for Petrossian posted on The Food Ledger. THREE!  If that doesn’t say it all, then I don’t know what else to say.

Almost…But Not Quite

  1. AOC (LA) – I’ve wanted to go here ever since I started seriously fooding in 2007 but I didn’t get to go until a week before I moved to NYC. And now I’m beating myself up for not trying it sooner…if only I had gone earlier…
  2. Pure Thai Cookhouse (NYC) – I love Pure Thai Cookhouse so much, their pork and crab dry noodles were the first thing I ate in 2011.
  3. Wurstkuche (LA) – There were a couple months where, every weekend, my friends and I would go to Wurstkuche for a sausage, a beer and some fries. If you go, just remember: The rattlesnake and rabbit sausages are the best thing on their menu. Seriously. Rattlesnake and rabbit. You’ll be disappointed with anything else.
  4. Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (NYC) – I live in the same city as the BGICT!…I can’t wait for the summer.
  5. Cream Pan (OC) – The azuki cream pans are airy puffs of deliciousness. Are they worth a trek to the OC? Just maybe…


In conclusion, it’s been good 2010 but it’s time to start talking about 2011 now…

Cooking with Fel – Frittata FAIL, Revisited

December 5, 2010

First off, I can’t believe it’s already December. It feels like this year just started but – BAM! – it’s winter and December and it’ll soon be time to reflect upon the year that will pass.

When I look back on 2010 and The Food Ledger, I’ve been through a lot. A lot I still haven’t posted (because, well, I’m lazy, as you already knew) but a lot I have…like this particular post. My first post of 2010 also happened to be my first “Cooking with Fel” post on the site. And, like many cooking attempts at that time, it was a disaster. The frittata tasted fine but let’s be honest now – food is something that is both enjoyed by the eyes and by the mouth and that frittata only met one of two criteria.

In that post, I wrote:

Resolution #1: Make an awesome, beautiful frittata by the end of the year.

Well boys and girls, check what just left my oven less than half an hour ago…

(Oooooh – what what! Yeah, that’s right – FRITTATA NON-FAIL  baby!)

I think it came out pretty well, don’t you think? Filled with bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions and potatoes… not only does it look pretty, but it tastes pretty damn good, if I may say so myself.

Therefore, my one resolution for the year (at least, the only one I’ve documented) is officially complete! 2010 has been deemed a success!