Goodbye Family Styles, Hello Mei Mei Street Kitchen

Named by our amazing brother Andy for us (Mei Mei means little sister in Chinese), this family business will start off as a Chinese and American-influenced, farm-sourced, community-oriented food truck serving up dumplings and other deliciousness.   We’ll serve only humanely raised meat and work with local growers to serve great tasting food produced in the best way possible.

Some day, we hope to have a larger business that encompasses multiple exciting food projects that celebrate delicious food, friends & family, sustainable farming and eating, social entrepreneurship, pop-up events, producer partnerships, exciting spaces, and other fun things we love.   It will probably involve buns…

and will most definitely involve crispy, fatty, spiced pork belly.

Since we’re spending tons of time on this project, we’ll no longer be blogging here at Family Styles. We want to thank all of you for putting up with our food porn raves and sustainable food rants over the past three years – we’ve loved sharing our food with you.  If you want to keep up with our antics, we’ll be doing some blogging on our Mei Mei Street Kitchen website and you can also follow our journey across the interwebs on Twitter and Facebook.

Even better, come visit us in Boston! There’s a slight chance you might be able to get in on some bun & pork belly action that might look something like this:

or some dumplings…

Now that we’ve reposted here at familystyles.wordpress.com, some of the photos from back in the day didn’t import. Our apologies! Hopefully you can still enjoy some of the recipes and randomness. Thanks again to you all for reading and as always, happy eating.

Much love,

Mei & Irene

My Macaron Obsession

Still going.

 

What We’ve Been Up To

Hi everyone!  We’ve been a little MIA for a while, but never fear, we’ve been up to some fun foodie stuff. Namely:

A) The undeniably obsessive baking of macarons. Ask anyone in the house, it’s gotten a little out of hand. I’ve read countless blogs with insane amounts of information that has led to a once, twice, or sometimes even thrice-daily macaron bake.  I’ve purchased enormous boxes of almond flour and gone through at least 10-12 pounds of butter in this month-long quest.  It’s led to some macaron disasters, but also some deliciousness…

B) Over-the-top Thanksgiving cooking!

We visited 3 Massachusetts farms and bought 2 turkeys, 2 pork shoulders, 5 hunks of smoked bacon ends, a ginormous bag of short ribs, and 150 pounds of fall vegetables.  Whew.  Check out our happy food faces:

So much food we jump for joy.  It was an epic 30-person, 14-dishes and 8-desserts night of eating madness. The very best holiday of the year.  And now for the big excitement…

C) We’re starting a sibling food business! Along with our awesome big brother Andy, we’re working on a very exciting venture and hope to hit the streets of Boston within the next few months. Keep your eyes peeled for more information soon…

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Or Corn.

Corn season is almost over in these parts. I can tell because I have to wear slippers (like a proper Chinese person) and butter won’t soften just because I left it on the kitchen table (though that has as much to do with household thermostat policies as the weather outside). This photo is of some corn we bought at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. We took it home, with no plans in particular, and when we shucked it (husked? Whatever, I like “shucked”), it looked good enough to eat – pearly white and yellow with irregular kernels so plump (sorry, I hate that word too) they almost looked decadent, fatty, excessive, like obscenely marbled steak.

I couldn’t resist taking a bite. And that bite, and the subsequent bites (I ate the whole thing), inspired me to take this rather terrible photo so that I would remember how insanely sweet and, well, corn-y this ear of corn was. Corn from the grocery store or corn that has been sitting in the fridge too long can approximate the texture of fresh sweet corn, maybe, but has nothing on its taste. Chowing down on this ear was like eating a candy bar, with all of the snap and sweetness, only way, way better (for you).

We ended up sauteeing the kernels with double-smoked bacon and coconut oil, and garnished the dish with cilantro, black pepper, and milk from the cob, obtained via Max’s technique – using the back of the knife to scrape and squeeze all that corny goodness out of each ear. The dish was amazing. Even so, I don’t know if I’d trade it for eating corn straight off the cob, utterly raw and crazily sweet (while watching a Top Gear marathon). They were both amazing.

Anyway, we’re heading to the Copley Square Farmer’s Market this afternoon. I’ll probably buy a bag or two of corn, maybe to freeze, maybe for soup, maybe to eat right off the cob. We’ll see! I won’t miss summer, or corn (corn… corn… corn!), at least not for now. Fall brings lots of excitement, even and especially for root crops, which I’m sure I’ll hate by the end of winter. Visit your local market, support your local farmers and gardeners, and they’ll have plenty of sweet corn for you next summer.

Goodbye London!

After two and a half amazing years in London, it’s time to move on. Although I’m sad to be leaving the amazing bounteous international feasting of this fantastic city, I’m incredibly excited to head back to Boston to spend some quality time with my family and start some food adventures! We’ve got big foodie things planned, so stay tuned.

Until then, I’m spending my final few weeks in London eating everything I’ve always wanted to eat and haven’t or what I know I’ll miss when I leave.

An obvious first move on the bucket list: fish&chips! Specifically from George’s on Portobello – Jamie Oliver’s favourite. Wrapped up in a cone of newspaper and sprinkled with salt and vinegar, it’s a beautiful flower bouquet of battered deliciousness.

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I’ll miss the delights of the chippie for sure….

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The Magical Urban Physic Garden of Enchantment and Poop Converters

Creep around the back streets and hidden alleyways of London and you find interesting things sometimes. With the Rambling Restaurant, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to cook and serve meals for cabaret and theatre performances under the cold grey stones of the railway arches near London Bridge, down narrow passages and past car parks. This summer, the Ramblers spent weeks hanging out just next to those dungeon-like spaces, but instead we were outside in the sunshine and the rain in the beautiful and inspiring Urban Physic Garden.
A collaboration between so many talented people including the visionary designers of Wayward Plants, the herbalists of Living Medicine and urban planners Publica as well as so many other wonderful volunteers, contributors and supporters, the Urban Physic Garden was a magical wonderland of greenery and delight, featuring curious seesaws, a dumpster pingpong table, an old operating theatre for workshops and performances, and herbs historically used to treat your every malady.
There was a dermatology ward…
an oncology ward..
a respiratory ward and a cardiology ward…
and of course a gastro ward…
but most importantly there was a kitchen garden with herbs and edible flowers and also an eating enjoyment area for Rambling celebrations of all kinds.
Abi the foodrambler, with the help of an assortment of talented and creative people set up the Rambulance – a cafe and kitchen run out of Bertha the decommissioned ambulance.

We served drinks, food and snacks during the week as well as some spectacular dinners inspired by the gifts of the garden.  We even had a Loowatt!  It’s an outdoor waterless toilet system developed by some fellow Imperial and RCA students where you do your business in a toilet made out of poop from the Queen’s cavalry – the horses, not the soldiers – and the waste gets emptied into an anaerobic digester (chilling behind Abi) that converts the waste into fertilizer as well as methane gas that powered one of our stoves! SO AWESOME.  It was very cool how many people got excited rather than disgusted by the big canister of poo behind us in the cooking area.
It was so fantastic being able to marinate meat, grill pizzas, brew tea, and toss salads by just walking over to the garden and picking multiple varieties of mint, basil, parsley, lemon verbena, coriander seeds, sorrel, nasturtiums, thyme, and whatever else tickled our fancy.
We served salads grown by friends in community gardens in nearby Walworth with vibrantly colored edible flowers and dressing to be squeezed from syringes..
followed by what is in all likelihood the peak of my cooking career – the simultaneous grilling of 28 pork chops -
and topped off  by Abi’s beautiful lemon verbena creme brulee topped with edible flowers.
Beyond eating, it was a place for firepit hangouts…
seesaw shenanigans of all kinds…
-  watch Jenny flex her up&down skills -
and a wide array of other activities ranging from nature walks to concerts to a seriously cool site-specific theatre performance by the Flying Orchard where I got to dress up as a nurse and order people around and of course death drawing.
It’s been a wonderful place to spend time, but sadly is all closed down after a summer of lovely outdoor experiences.  You can no longer wander through the garden of delights doing your best to avoid eating from the poison cabinet or falling off the seesaw….
RIP Urban Physic Garden…you’ve been a magical space. Can’t wait to see what enchanting things this crew comes up with next!
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A Pilgrimage for the Best Hummus in Tel Aviv…

It’s only been 3 days since I got to Tel Aviv and I’m sunburnt and footsore and absolutely stuffed full of hummus and pita. I’m visiting my friend Dan in TLV and we’ve walked from Center City to Jaffa to Neve Tzedek and back, all in the name of seeing and eating the best the city has to offer.  And sample the best we certainly did, starting with a morning pilgrimage to what is generally acknowledged to be the best hummus place in Tel Aviv if not Israel or the entire world, Abu Hassan. You might think your hummus or your friend’s hummus is the best in the world but take a look at the picture above for some visual proof – can’t really argue with that, can you?

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Grow your own veggies!

Er – maybe not like this. They are pretty, though! Maybe you want to:

1. Grow your own sprouts(Sprouted chickpeas are great for hummus)

2. Grow random crap from your pantry and fridge! (Special shout-out to potato sprouter extraordinaire Judith Ternes – you inspire us)

3. Check out Carolyn Cope‘s advice for edible windowbox gardens!

4. Find out who among your friends and family are undercover garden wizards! They’re everywhere, and they’ll definitely give you advice, probably bring you their extras, and maybe even deliver you some transplants.

Don’t forget to have fun and not worry too much! This spring, I tried to let go of my desire to read and read and read about gardening, and just gardened. It’s been great. Maybe (read: probably) I’ve made some serious technical errors, but I’m too ignorant to know the difference! And as long as I’m not perpetuating pests, I figure my amateurish behavior is acceptable. And the herbs are hard to kill. And it feels good to eat food you’ve grown. And it feels almost as good if not better to not pay $3 for a pathetically small bunch of “fresh” herbs.

Max and I threw a bunch of stuff in the ground this spring. Click on for some photos of our -likely-unimpressive-to-you-but-totally-life-changing-for-me garden! I’m practicing for my hopefully long career as a slightly senile but very proud grandmother who has impressively but inconveniently learned to use snapfish.

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Pizza Night at Orange Peel: “It’s as much about the people as it is about the pizza”

When the Li-Bruynell-Hull vacation team pulled up for Pizza Night at the Orange Peel Bakery on Martha’s Vineyard, the sun was so bright that I forgave the weather for the past three days of rain, the stone oven so beautiful that I snapped pictures unabashedly, and the people so friendly that I wondered if I’d somehow teleported to the West Coast. In a word, it was heavenly. Special thanks to Amanda for the recommendation!

Here’s how it works:

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The first tomato, and a reflection on what it means

1. This morning, Max picked the first sungold tomato produced in our garden. The tomato plant came from our amazing CSA at Westhaven Farm, and we have watched it grow and fruit over the last few weeks. Tiny, orange, and pretty darn delicious, it was a little piece of sunshine after all the thunder and lightning yesterday in Ithaca. To us, though, it meant something else. It was a reminder of the industrial food system and our efforts to disconnect ourselves from it and to figure out how others can do the same.

2. We recently read an article, an excerpt from a book, actually, by Mark Estabrook, a former editor of Gourmet (RIP). Many of us know about the horrifying human costs of industrial tomato farming. I learned in this article that there are migrant workers who are literally, not figuratively, enslaved on tomato farms. Maybe you already knew about this?

3. This is a little hard for me to write. When I got done reading the Estabrook article, I felt really, really sick. I wanted to drive to Wegman’s and yell at someone. I don’t think this is a good platform to tell people what and how to eat, but I want to share what I learned and what I think, which is this: It’s still important to eat carefully, especially when it comes to tomatoes. For me, this means eating local tomatoes only when I’m the one doing the shopping. In Ithaca, this means eating them when they’re in season, not whenever I want one. This is a choice I’m prepared to make. And anyway, they taste better.

Your thoughts?

Some important quotations from the Estabrook article:

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