8.27.2013

I Like My Fish Raw and My Dumpings Spicy


I first told you about kaiten-zushi, or conveyor belt sushi, which is Japan’s answer to fast food, back in 2011, when Melinda and I hit up Sakana-Ya in Syracuse to gorge ourselves on colorful rolls. Ebishura Sushi, in Vestal’s University Plaza, forges its menu both from the kaiten-zushi tradition and Korean cuisine. That means that in addition to the huge conveyor belt that dominates the spare, but nice dining room, you can get bibim bap, kimchi pancakes, or bulgoki on the menu, which like most Asian restaurants, has amusing translated-to-English-by-a-computer typos like dissert and appitizer.

 
Melinda and I went on a weeknight during the summer, when Binghamton University is fairly disserted, so it wasn’t crowded, but with smaller portions of sushi rolls than you get at say, Kampai, and lower prices, I bet this joint will be jumping now that classes are back in session. We began our meal with a kani (spicy crabmeat) salad, which had great heat, but wasn’t made with real crab. Instead, we got that crab stick stuff you find on salad bars. It was fairly yummy, and a good way rev up our palates, but Kampai’s crab and avocado version is much tastier and made with real crab meat. Then again, I believe Kampai’s crab salad is $8, and at $4.95, this version will appeal more to Ebishura’s target market – poor college students.




The beef “dumpings” (insert immature giggle here) we tried came with a dynamite spicy chile oil sauce for dipping, but were themselves nearly devoid of flavor. I would skip these fried won tons on a return visit.

I don’t get the cherry garnish

The trick with the conveyor belt is that you don’t really know what you’re getting, and then you kind of have to dissect what’s speeding past you to see if you might like it. We started with the Binghamton roll, I believe – cream cheese, shrimp and avocado, deep fried. I was hoping for so much more with this one, but it just tasted gluey and bland. Even a pretty lengthy bath in wasabi-corrupted soy didn’t remedy the mediocrity.

The Secret Garden bought the spice we were looking for, but was a little muddled in overall flavor. Probably due, again, to the kani salad on top. We were hoping this would more closely echo Kampai’s Hot Mama, which mixes a traditional cold sushi roll with hot scallops in Japanese mayo, but that’s supremely savory, while this was a bit one-note.




Next up, we ordered a little sashimi to cleanse our palates, and were rewarded with fabulously silky hamachi (yellowtail), which was sliced oddly thick, but was deliciously fresh and firm. After a trip through my soy and wasabi wash, it melted in my mouth and made me say, “mmm.”

Not so with the uni (sea urchin), the orange blobs you see on the plate above. I was pumped to try uni for the first time, as Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern are always yammering on about it on their shows. And you know, I’m a pretty adventurous eater. I down bone marrow, duck hearts, and liver without batting an eyelash. Not so with this delicacy, which I can only liken to ocean garbage. The taste and texture were so foreign to even my sushi-loving palate, it’s hard for me to describe it with any more sophisticated verbiage. It had a faint spoiled taste, and was inedible. The waitress felt terrible that I didn’t like it, and returned it to the chef, who transformed it into hand rolls, with nori and rice, but I still couldn’t choke it down. I might try it again in a more upscale setting, with a high end sushi master in whose hands I felt safer, but otherwise, never again.

I needed a mouth-pleaser after that doozy, and found it in the BU Girl – spicy salmon roll topped with tuna, salmon, spicy tuna and tobiko with spicy wasabi mayo. She was resplendent with sweet raw fish, spicy tuna, crunchy bits and pops of clean-tasting roe. I loved all the textural treats in this one.




I also loved the American Dream, which I didn’t get a photo of, but was fiery and crunchy. I enjoy my rolls spicy and texturally interesting, so this hit my notes with flying colors. It has shrimp tempura, avocado to lend it creaminess, and both spicy tuna and tempura flakes, which are basically deep fried bits of breading. Yum.

While I clearly didn’t love everything about our meal at Ebishura, I did appreciate the low prices, convenience of the conveyor belt, and pleasant interior. This is not masterful, artisan sushi, and I think the fish itself is not as high quality as you’d get at a very nice sushi bar. But it’s quick, it’s cheap, and it works well in a college setting. If we can open the aperture of culinary possibilities to young people, I’m all in. We gave Ebishura a six on the BHS scale – just above average, mostly for the creativity of some of the rolls. I would like to go back and try some more of the menu items, and may just do so. Do you want to come? My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

8.23.2013

The Shirt Off My Back

You know I love you all more'n my luggage. I eat bone marrow, duck hearts, rabbit terrine, and fried chicken skins for you (ok, I really liked most of them, but so what?). I usually only ask in return that you read along, and think about choosing a locally-owned place instead of Red Lobster next time you eat out.

But the tide has turned and I need your help. You know how much of my time I give to the Miss America Organization, and the passion my Mom and I funnel into our prelim, Miss Thousand Islands. You've seen how proud I am of my titleholders, and how crazy I get around pageant time. What you probably don't know is that while we run our organization as a not-for-profit venture, we do not have non-profit status, and so it's hard for us to raise funds to do what we do. People still see us as a beauty pageant, even though we pay out all our awards in scholarship money, writing checks directly to colleges or lending institutions. 


We happen to be celebrating our 50th year as an official local in the Miss America Organization, and we started to think about 50 Miss Thousand Islands, and the sisterhood created by this unique group of talented, high-achieving, and yes, beautiful women. So over the next year, until we do crown our 50th Miss TI, we will highlight what we're calling The Golden Sisterhood. And we're kicking off the campaign with a huge fundraiser that could possibly alleviate a lot of fundraising woes over the next year. 


Behold, our Golden Sisterhood t-shirt, which we are selling now to benefit our scholarship fund. It features the Miss America crown logo on the front, and our local logo on the back:


It will be printed and distributed through CustomInk, a very reputable online printing company that I've actually used for my BHS shirts before! It comes in unisex, women's and youth sizes, and I can attest that the shirts are very high quality.

All of these girls have already orderd theirs!


So no, the $25 you pay for this shirt will not be tax delectable. We are not a charity. What we are is a team of adults who care enough to take four girls a year (a miss, a teen, and two princesses), help them pay for school, teach them how to ace any interview they'll have for the rest of their lives, how to dress and act appropriately in just about any public situtation, how to get involved in their communities to make a difference, and the importance of being accountable and responsible. If you asked the ladies above, I bet they'd also tell you they learned a lot about what it means to support other women in their journey to success, how to be a better friend and a better person. 



So here comes my personal plea. I know you may not necessarily count yourself as a pageant fan. You probably don't have a daughter or a sister who's competed with us. You may not have a litle girl on your Christmas gift list obsessed with princesses and anything with a crown on it. But, if you know me, and you care about me and what I care about, would you consider clicking on the link below, and buying a tshirt to support our Golden Sisterhood campaign? I know these ladies would appreciate it:


As many of them will compete with us again next year, and are actively making their way through school right now. And I KNOW I would be forever grateful for your signal of support for an organization I am madly, deeply, in love with. 



Just click on this link to purchase your shirt: https://www.booster.com/goldensisterhood
We only have 21 days left and then these Golden Sisterhood shirts will be gone forever. If you want, this can be
Your oversized sleep shirt, your XBox Champion shirt, your lawn-mowing shirt, or what you dye your hair in.
I don't mind! I just hope you'll help us continue our mission to encourage achievement in young women. Thanks!
My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

8.20.2013

You’re turning violet, Violet!


I’m not going to lie to you beautiful people. Though I adore my corporate public relations job, if the Travel Channel called tomorrow, told me that if I got a personal trainer and lost 25 lbs, they would give me my own Big Hungry Shelby show, I would be on that like white on rice. I wouldn’t say I’m eager for fame, exactly, but I wouldn’t shy away from that kind of success if it came knocking at my door. So when Chris Dziedzic, legislative assistant for the Broome County Legislature, contacted me to help out with the Legislature’s August farm to table agricultural event, I was flattered and agreeable.

Chris asked me to judge the organization’s Fresh from the Farm Blueberry Throwdown, held in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension. The purpose of the event is to teach young people in our community about where their food comes from, creative ways for it to be used, food safety, and kitchen skills. The various groups of competitors, ranging from Girl Scout troops to 4-H and Urban Mission, received blueberries from local farms, and were asked to prepare a dish that could be served to the BC Legislature and to the three “celebrity” judges. In addition to yours truly, our panel included Paul Vansavage, a shining gem of a foodie and the original founder of the Spiedie Festival, and Kristen Cox Roby, a longtime lifestyle journalist and handler of the @STierEats Twitter extravaganza.




I can’t even tell you guys how excited these young people were to share their creations, not only with us, but with everyone in the room. Broome County executive Debbie Preston was there to greet the kids, and the whole shebang really served to validate the efforts of the youts, and the value they can bring to our local culinary scene. I love the recognition they all received, and that they were really treated as the celebrities of the day. They were all so enthusiastic and professional!

And make no mistake, these kids rocked it out in the kitchen like bosses. From decorating their tables and actively engaging in food styling, to extensive online recipe searches, and even harvesting their own berries when calamity came home to roost, I am incredibly proud of the culinary tenacity of all the competitors. And the dishes! They were so good, Paul, Kristen and I threatened our legislative leaders against taking our remaining food away when we adjourned to deliberate our winners.

Don’t mess with my food, man

Are you ready to hear the results? Team 1, otherwise known as Girl Scout Troop 30256, comprised of Olivia, Vanessa, and Emily, delivered blueberry cheesecake rounds in adorable little cupcake wrappers. Their table was thematically apropos, and the blue of the blueberries topping the cheesecakes contrasted beautifully with the red and American flag-decorated napkins they brought to show off their wares. The cheesecakes were meticulously presented as well, and the flavor was uber rich, creamy, and sweet – just like cheesecake lovers like it! We awarded Team 1 with Best Presentation.

Team 2, AKA Girl Scount Troop 30510 gave us crumbly blueberry cobbler with blueberry ice cream. They let us know that their crumble topping contained sunflower seeds and other healthy ingredients that added complexity and savoriness to the cobbler, and the apples included in the recipe added great texture. Jillian, Molly, Genevieve, Haley, Bridget, and Erin also made blueberry ice cream – from scratch! Dude, I don’t even know how to make ice cream from scratch. The presentation of this bounty was a bit messy, but I adored the balanced sweet and savory flavors, and the abundance of blueberry flavor in both the cobbler and the ice cream. Team 2 took home the Best Overall prize for this outstanding dish – congrats, ladies!

Girl Scout Troop 30598 was Team 3, and they made a very sophisticated blueberry treat: BB French toast parfaits. How ingenious! This delightful dish packed a little less blueberry flavor than the other entries, but took the prize for Most Local Ingredients used, as they incorporated Chobani yogurt and local maple syrup and honey. Good job, Nina and Maeve!




Team 4, or 4-H Teen Action Group, was made up of Haley, Alexius, Kristal and Zach. These little wizards cooked up the People’s Choice winner and our Best Taste choice – Blueberry cheesecake bars with goat cheese. Obvs, the kicker here was the goat cheese, which was locally made, but also leant the bars a creamy tartness not present in any of the other dishes. These kids also picked their own berries! The goat cheese cut the richness of the cheesecake flavor, and the whole works was lusciously complex and creamy. OMG.





Finally, Sunny, Jaineiqua, and Nosa repped Team 5, from Citizen U Youth. Their Most Creative-winning dish was Scandinavian Blueberry Bisque, a tart, fruit-packed cold soup. This cup of YUM was citrusy and light, very refreshing for a summer sip. We loved how much thought Team 5 put into this dish!




I am not flattering anyone when I tell you how delicious every single one of these dishes were, but the recipe I’m going to share with you today comes from the Best Taste winners, 4-H Teen Action Group. These kids gave us a cheesecake bar we couldn’t stop eating, and every single morsel they brought with them was gone at the end of the event!

4-H Teen Action Group Blueberry Cheesecake Bars with Goat Cheese

INGREDIENTS:


Crust:
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt


Cheesecake:
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 oz goat cheese, room temperature
  • 6 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • Pinch of salt

Blueberry syrup / topping:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS:


1.         Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.         Combine crust ingredients.  Push down into bottom of a 9x13 pan. Bake for five minutes or until crust is just set.  Set aside to cool.

3.         Combine blueberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small non-reactive sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until mixture reduces into a syrup, about five minutes.  Add pinch of salt, remove from  heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  Strain syrup with a fine mesh seive, and separate fruit for topping (optional).

4.         Cream cheeses together in stand mixer.  Scrape down sides of bowl and add sour cream and sugar.  Beat until well combined, 1-2 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl and add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and salt and mix on low until incorporated.

5.         Pour cheesecake filling over prepared crust and smooth out with a small off-set spatula.  Using a spoon, drop dots of blueberry syrup over the top of the cheescake.  Pull the blueberry syrup through the cheesecake batter to make a swirled pattern.  You can use as much or little of the syrup as you like, we went by how it looked rather than an amount. 

6.         Bake for 20-25 minutes or until center is just set.  Remove to a cooling rack.  Cool to room temperature and then place in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours. Top with reserved fruit and additional syrup (or not) and enjoy!

 


I want to congratulate every participant of the Blueberry Throwdown, and thank Jerry Marinich, chairman of the Broome County Legislature, for inviting us to participate. We need more education for our children on the importance of agriculture, real cooking, whole foods, and local ingredients, and events like this one really help to teach future generations of parents and chefs what to do with produce.

In last week’s blog, I happened to mention both the Throwdown and pierogies, and my friend Gwen mentioned that she would like both, but not necessarily together. That got me thinking, in advance of Thursday’s event, that I wished a team came prepped with a blueberry pierogie, and while that didn’t pan out, I experimented with my own local blueberry recipe this weekend, and wanted to share it with you. I’m not one to make dough from scratch, and I don’t have a Polish bone in my body, so I went in a slightly different direction.

I started with some locally grown blueberries from Wegmans, goat cheese from Lively Run Farms in the Finger Lakes, plus orange zest, skim milk, superfine and powdered sugars, and Immaculate Baking’s crescent roll dough in a can.

BHS’ Blueberry Goat Cheese Puffs

  • 1 can Immaculate Baking Co.’s refrigerated crescent rolls
  • Farm fresh blueberries
  • ½ C Goat Cheese, softened to room temp
  • 1 tsp Organe zest
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2-3 T Superfine sugar
  • 2-3 T Skim milk
  • 1 T Powdered sugar

1.      Preheat oven to 350°

2.      In a small mixing bowl, mix cheese, zest, milk, salt, and superfine sugar with a hand mixer, or whizz up in your Kitchenaid if you are so lucky as to own one

3.      Roll out each crescent roll a bit, dollop a tablespoon of goat cheese mixture and 5 – 7 blueberries into the widest end of each, then press edges together to make a packet.

4.      Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on a cookie sheet or baking stone

5.      Let cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar




The resulting confection is tart, not too sweet, creamy, buttery, and bursting with blueberry goodness. If I do say so myself. I had extra goat cheese mix left over, so I’m going to slather it on a toasted English muffin tomorrow morning and top that with more berries. Yum.
 

I’m going to post the recipe for the blueberry cobbler with blueberry ice cream on my Big Hungry Shelby Facebook page, so if you’d like that one, pop on over there to get it. I want to recognize once more every budding chef who cooked for us on Thursday – you were amazing! I look forward to eating your food many years from now, when you’re heading up the kitchens of the Southern Tier’s best restaurants. Go forth and COOK! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!

8.14.2013

My Top Stories

To say I'm behind in my blogging is a huge understatement. In fact, I am three weeks behind, and I apologize. When life gets hectic, something's got to give, and this time around, Big Hungry was it. And I still haven't completely settled down, but now that my sister's been married off and we've crowned a new Miss Thousand Islands, I'm hoping things can get back to normal.



So, I still don't exactly have my head on straight enough to compose a review for you, even though I have them on deck for Ebishura Sushi in Vestal, and two great spots in DC. This week, I can tell you that I got an awesome new T-shirt from Flavour Gallery/James Beard Foundation:


And that I'm participating in the Wendy's Walk for Kids this weekend to support Mom's House in Johnson City. It would be totally rad if you would pledge me, baby:

http://wendyswalk2013.kintera.org/bighungryshelby

Other than that, some news briefs:

We had my sister's rehearsal dinner at Ruyi Japanese Steakhouse in Watertown. The food is still good, although I felt like the hibachi show was lacking some of the luster of the restaurant's early days.

I bought Daylight Donuts (Endwell) for my department this morning - still delicious!

Podlaise is a new Polish restaurant in Endicott, and I'm dying to try it. Anyone for perogies?

I'm judging the Broome County Legislature's Fresh From the Farm Blueberry Throwdown tomorrow in Binghamton, and can't wait to tell you all about it!

I am actually staying home this weekend, and I'm going to knock out a bunch of posts. Maybe I'll give you guys two-a-weeks to make up for my absence. Stay tuned! My hunger is big; my personality is bigger!