Rise Biscuits and Donuts

Yesterday I had breakfast with my mom at Rise Biscuits and Donuts in Durham, NC. I heard this place had really good biscuits so I thought I’d give it a try. Love for food runs in the family so my mom was happy to try the place out as well.

Walking in, the small store actually had a really cool vibe to it. The layout is similar to any other bakery, clerks at the front and a window display of some beautiful donuts. I should have taken a picture of them but I also didn’t anticipate blogging about the place. There was a small bar type seating area to the side along with a beverage station that had a really cool bookshelf next to it complete with what looked like vintage cookbooks.

The menu at Rise is pretty simple, the name says it all; biscuits and donuts are their specialty. I decided to go with a bacon and egg biscuit while my mom went with a plain biscuit.

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Alright I know I don’t have the best photography skills and I have to say, my picture really does the biscuit no justice. My bacon and egg biscuit was one of the best biscuits I have ever had. The bacon was great. As a bacon connoisseur, I love bacon that isn’t crispy like a cracker but also isn’t too soft either. This bacon had a perfect balance between salty and sweet and had was really cooked perfectly. The egg was also great and matched well with the bacon.

The biscuit itself was also amazing. I am not a fan of doughy biscuits. You know the kind that seem to not be cooked enough and are really mushy in the center so you end up with swallowing a huge ball of buttery dough..well the biscuits at Rise are far from that. They’re nice and fluffy and not so oily that your hands end up with a layer of grease on them. Our biscuits were baked perfectly, a light crust on the outside that was a nice contrast to the soft inside. I really have no complaints about the biscuits at Rise.

If you’re ever in the Raleigh/Durham area, make sure you check out Rise! I know I’ll be going back sometime to check out their donuts and have some more of their amazing biscuits. Also be sure to follow them on Twitter!

Have a great day guys!

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It’s been a while! Some BAO for thought

Forgive me, my faithful (existent?) readers. I haven’t been very good about keeping up with this blog….at all. However, I intend on making a big comeback to the world of blogging. I hope this time around, I’ll be a lot better about updating this site with stories and pictures from the many adventures I have with food.

To start off my first blog back, I thought I’d write about my rediscovery of an old enemy of mine, the bao .

To give a bit of background, bao, or steamed buns, better known in Mandarin as 包子 (pronounced bao zi) are one of the main staples of Chinese cuisine. I can only compare bao zi’s role in the Chinese diet to bread in the Western diet. They come in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Their role in meals can range from being almost a substitute for rice in the sense that they’re like a supporting actor to the main dishes to them being the actual main event of the course itself. Just as bread can be used for sandwiches or eaten plain (i.e. baguettes), the bao can be enjoyed with or without a filling. I consider them one of Chinese cuisine’s “blank canvasses”.

As a child, I was never a huge fan of the bao.  When it came to steamed buns with fillings, I was always a bigger fan of the filling and never keen on the white steamed dough that surrounded it. I especially hated what people in northern China are known to love eating: mantou (饅頭), the plain version of a bao which is just steamed white sugar dough. What is the point of it? A blob of steamed dough?! What flavor utility does this food have? What is it’s point of existence other than being filling and relatively easy/cheap to make? Despite my childhood preferences, I promised myself I would revisit all of the foods I remembered not liking as a kid and give them another chance.

When I was in Taiwan last year, I decided to give the bao a fresh start. I was staying in Taipei at the time and a few of my friends kept on telling me about the infamous “Taiwanese hamburger.” Wary of the name and eager to try foods that I wouldn’t be able to find in America, I kept on brushing off my friends’ invitations to go try this new “delicacy” until one day I finally caved in to go see what the hype was all about. What people called the “Taiwanese hamburger” was actually what I knew as 割包 (gua bao) the entire time.

Gua Bao

This gua bao from 藍家割包, a street stand famous for their gua bao, is a steamed plain white bun, similar to a mantou, stuffed with slow cooked braised pork belly, pickled mustard greens, fresh cilantro, finished with a generous dusting of peanut and sugar powder. While the components of this treat might sound strange, their combination in the warm steamed bun is a perfect match made in Taiwanese heaven. The saltiness of the braised pork belly, stewed and cooked slowly with soy sauce and other aromatic spices like star anise and cinnamon cut with the acidic crunch of the pickled mustard greens pair off great enough as it is. On top of  all of that, the sweetness of the peanut powder and the freshness of the cilantro really bring the whole stuffed bun together. I swear it is one of the best creations ever.

What makes this street food snack so great? Nothing other than that fluffy, soft, but sturdy bao that holds everything together. Sure the best part might be the filling, but the bun’s role in combining all of the ingredients and the importance of that role is simply undeniable. The classic pork belly and pickled mustard greens are pretty traditional in the Taiwanese sense; they appear at the Taiwanese dinner table in the form of a main dish. However, what makes the snack a delight is it’s presentation in the cloud like bao. Not only does it hold everything together, the bun also acts as a sponge for all of the braised pork belly juices that ooze out with every bite. With the gua bao from 藍家割包, you really never miss a bit of flavor all thanks to that beautiful bao.

By the way, photo credit to my friend, Peter Shrieve-Don. The picture I took was horrible and didn’t do the gua bao any justice.

 

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed my “little” reflection on giving old foods a new try. Food narrow-mindness is an easily curable problem…just try it again! I’m sure you’ll rediscover what you thought you didn’t like in new and more exciting ways.

 

Enjoy!

Greek Yogurt

It’s tangy, it’s thick, and it’s high in proteins. Greek yogurt is one of those international foods that have suddenly caught on with the masses of America. And for good reason- this stuff has a ton of great qualities. It’s really healthy, it’s different and new to the American market and palette, and when it comes down to it, it tastes pretty good too. But did you know there are so many ways to eat this delicacy from the Mediterranean? Did you know that Greek yogurt doesn’t have to be eaten in a cup with fruit swirled in?

I actually prefer to use Greek yogurt in cooking over eating it plain/with honey or fruit. For all of you sour cream and mayo lovers out there: who doesn’t love a good dollop of sour cream on their nachos or tacos or cole slaw or chicken salad with real mayo?! The truth is, these are not exactly the most healthy of choices out there. There are better alternatives that don’t involve “fat-free”.  This white creamy, and slightly tangy yogurt is naturally non-fat, full of proteins and calcium, and also contains a lot of abiotics, which makes it a lot easier to digest than normal yogurt.

Greek yogurt is a perfect substitute for sour cream. It has that dairy/tangy taste to it as well so there is pretty much no reason to not try it! Add a squeeze or two of lime or lemon and it is perfect for tacos, nachos, and anything Mexican! Add lime or lemon juice, your favorite seasoning (Old Bay, Mexican spices, Ms. Dash, etc) or a little bit of those onion dip premixed spices and you have a great dip for chips and crackers at a party.

Credit: Bon Appetit Magazine

In dishes like chicken, potato salad, mac and cheese, or cole slaw, Greek yogurt can be used as a complete substitute as well. I would only recommend that for people that love the taste of Greek yogurt. If you want a substitute that cheats the flavor, I would suggest substituting half of the original recipe for Greek yogurt. That way, you can get the flavor and taste of mayo, while also adding a healthy aspect to an otherwise relatively unhealthy dish. Don’t be scared to experiment! If you are hesitant to this substitute, try only subbing out a third of the mayo for the Greek yogurt. I promise you won’t even be able to tell the difference! The other great thing about Greek yogurt is that texturally, it is thicker, so it is actually better for cole slaw because it won’t get the slaw as liquid-y and soupy as mayo would.

Almost all brands of Greek yogurt are good, relatively cheap, and at almost all regular grocery stores. My personal favorite is Chobani, but Dannon, Oikos, and even Yoplait are also good brands as well. Remember to substitute the sour cream or mayo for plain Greek yogurt! Stay healthy!

Recipe: Easy Marinara Sauce

Basic Marinara Sauce (feeds 4-6 people comfortably)

I came up with this recipe one day when I was really craving some pasta and didn’t have enough fresh tomatoes to make sauce. In the past, whenever I made marinara sauce, I stuck with either all fresh tomatoes or all canned. I never mixed. Who knew.

Ingredients

Extra virgin olive oil

5 regular sized tomatoes

a 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 onion

1 teaspoon of dried basil

1 teaspoon of dried oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Cut tomatoes into cubes. The smaller, the faster they will cook and the less chunky your sauce will be..i.e. if you like chunky marinara sauce, cut tomatoes into half inch cubes. Mince the garlic and dice the onion the same size as the tomatoes. Consistency is key.

2. In a pot over medium heat, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and add the minced garlic. Once you can smell the garlic, add the diced onion. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent.If they start to brown, turn the heat down.

3. Once the onions are soft, add in the fresh tomatoes. At this point, its okay to turn the heat up a little more. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt. This will not only help the tomatoes break down faster, it will also provide flavor. Once the tomatoes are cooked and broken down, after around 5 or 6 minutes, add in the can of crushed tomatoes.

4. Mix the sauce well and add in the dried herbs. Stir well and cover the pot and turn the heat up to high. Once the sauce has boiled, turn the heat down to medium-low and let the sauce cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

PS: This sauce is really nice because it’s a complete canvas for you to add whatever you have or want. Bolognese? Add ground meat right after the garlic and onions start to sweat a little. Have some bell peppers/any vegetable in your fridge? Dice them up and saute them after the onions! Remember to keep them cut similar sizes so they’ll cook evenly. If you like your veggies crispy, add it after the tomatoes instead. Vodka sauce? Add a shot of vodka before adding the tomatoes and make sure the alcohol has cooked off a little. Then add the tomatoes and let them cook down. Add a little bit of heavy cream after the sauce has come to a boil and turn down the heat to let it simmer. The possibilities are endless.

Have fun and tell me your thoughts!