Hi! My name's Jen.
Tiny Urban Kitchen was born out of my tiny urban condo situated between my alma mater and the other school in Cambridge. My tiny urban condo came with a tiny urban kitchen, hence the name of this blog. It was bit tight at times, but over all, it worked for me, and I spent lots of time there exploring new recipes and cooking methods.
I then moved out of that condo into a medium urban townhouse in Cambridge. My kitchen had a bit more space. In September of 2017, I moved to Hong Kong, a land known for its tiny, tiny apartments (they even call them "nano" or "micro" flats). In many ways, I've moved back to the roots of this blog, back to a true "tiny urban kitchen."
I am an experimenter by nature. I worked as a research chemist for years synthesizing new molecules in the lab. At home, I am always trying new things in the kitchen, exploring fun, new creative ways to cook.
I also love eating, and am very willing to travel for good food! That's why this blog also includes my takes on my various eating adventures around the world. I love sharing about my food adventures, and I also love hearing what you have to say. So, please leave a comment, say hello, and feel free to give me your thoughts and suggestions too. If this is your first time here, welcome!
If you're interested in cooking, definitely check out the Recipes link, which is a compilation of all the recipes on the site to date. If you like Asian food, visit the Chinese Recipes Gallery, which gives you a quick, photolicious way of browsing through the Chinese recipes on the site. For dining out, a great way to start is top restaurants to visit in Boston, posts from other US cities, or food from my worldwide travels.
Interested in the sous vide technique? Here's a primer on sous vide, including links to several recipes I’ve made from famous chefs like Thomas Keller and David Chang.
How did Tiny Urban Kitchen get Started?
Check out my entry for round 1 of Project Food Blog which describes not only how this blog began, but really the core of what motivates me and what defines Tiny Urban Kitchen.
Since I lived in Cambridge for over 20 years, many of the restaurants on this site are in the Cambridge/Boston area. The best way to search my neighborhoods is to hover over the Travel/Restaurants tab at the top of the blog menu, go to US, Boston, and then pick the neighborhood. You can navigate the entire blog that way.
For a fun photo gallery of all the Michelin Starred restaurants I visited, check out the Michelin Stars Gallery. I do travel extensively, and thus you’ll find all sorts of food from places such as New York City, Las Vegas, and Napa/Sonoma in the US, tons of places in Asia (Tokyo, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and of course, Hong Kong), as well as several countries in Europe.
I've written up a few travel guides for cities that I know better. Feel free to check them out here.
What has surprised you most about food blogging?
I think everyone says the same thing, and I have to agree. The community is AWESOME. Most people start food blogging to share recipes with friends and family, or to keep a record of all the restaurants they've visited - at least that's why I started my blog. You never really realize how food blogging can connect you to so many like-minded people around the world. I've had the great privilege to "meet" people from Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, and, of course, all over the US. Things like the Foodbuzz Festival are great ways to connect with other food lovers. I never would have thought that starting a food blog would open the door to so many other friendships, opportunities, and experiences.
What has been the most amazing food opportunity that you've had as a result of food blogging?
No question it would be my trips to Napa Valley (both in 2010 and in 2011) to Napa Valley to blog about the S. Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef Competition. In 2010, Foodbuzz and S. Pellegrino had hosted a contest to send one person there. I was thrilled and beyond belief that I had actually won the contest. The trip really opened my eyes to what the food industry is like. The food industry, especially the restaurant industry, is grueling, and it takes a ton of hard work and perseverance to make it. I was so privileged to be able to see this up close. It really gave me a new perspective and added respect for those who choose to follow this career path. Of course, Napa Valley is also beautiful, and I had a fabulous time there just checking out the vineyards and trying some amazing restaurants!
What camera do you use? What's your process in photography?
I switched between my Sony Cybershot DSC RX1R, (which is more pocket-sized so I carry it around with me everywhere I go) and my Canon 5D MKIII depending on the situation. The SLR is really big and heavy, so I use it more during vacations and food events that are clearly "camera-friendly." I would say 80% of the pictures on my blog are taken with the pocket sized cameras. I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC to catalog and work up my images, which are all shot in raw format. I then export them to the blog on WordPress, which hosts all my images.
Between 2012 and 2016, I used the Sony DSC RX1, and the Canon 5D MKIII. Before 2012, I used either a Panasonic Lumix GF1, Canon 5D, or Canon 5D MkII, all of which are excellent cameras.
Which posts did you have the most fun making?
Man, that’s a tough question! Before Project Food Blog I would have said my first 24, 24, 24 post titled "Kyaraben on Steroids." I spent the day making sushi and other foods in the shapes of my favorite Japanese anime characters. It was a ton of work and took all day, but to this day I still love looking at the pictures of the cute Hello Kitty, Domokuns, Totoros, and Keroppis that I made for this post. However, I had a lot of fun creating posts for the numerous rounds in Project Food Blog. My favorites would have to be a toss up between the final post in the last round (“Final Reflections”) where I made a moving stop-animation video of Boston constructed out of vegetables (and sang a song!) and the hand-pulled noodle instructional video that I made for Round 7. In general, I love playing with my food and photographing them in different angles, and therefore some posts whose photography I really enjoyed creating are the ones about dragon fruit, meyer lemons, ratatouille, and inside out apples.
What are you favorite restaurants in Boston?
My favorite neighborhood restaurant is Bergamot, a place we visit on a regular basis. The staff there is incredible and they really take good care of you. Of course, Chef Pooler makes fantastic food, and Paul makes great drinks at the bar.
Ten Tables in Cambridge was also a favorite. Although chef David Punch is no longer there (moved on to open his own fantastic restaurant), Chef Dan who took over is still great, and executes well thought-out, flavorful dishes reflecting the most seasonal ingredients. The menu changes constantly, so it's always fun to return.
Before we moved, we used to love going to Garden at the Cellar. The truffle fries alone are the best I've ever had, and the rest of the menu is excellent and priced very very reasonably. Since then, the original chef Will Gilson has moved on, and we have moved away from the neighborhood as well.
My current favorite place in Cambridge for casual dining is probably Area Four. They make excellent salads, delicious and creative pizzas, and have a pretty fun beer list.
Hungry Mother (French/Southern American cuisine) was excellent, but has now closed! For fancy dining, Craigie on Main, formerly Craigie Street Bistrot, is fantastic - some of the best food I've had in Boston. O Ya (Japanese inspired cuisine) is also an amazing dining experience - hands down one of the best restaurants in Boston. Similarly, Menton by Barbara Lynch also executes incredibly good food.
For outdoor dining during the summer, some of our favorite places in Harvard Square include Upstairs on the Square, Monday Club [update, now closed!], Rialto, and The Red House. Muqueca (Brazilian coastal food) is one of my favorite little ethnic family restaurants, while Mamma Maria or Prezza just might be my favorite North End restaurants (of course you can't forget Mike's Pastry or Modern!). Though it’s not Italian, Neptune Oyster in the North End is one of my favorite seafood places - a perfect taste of New England. For excellent non red sauce Italian, check out Erbaluce.
As for Asian food, because I'm Taiwanese, that cuisine tends to be my favorite, which is why I love going to Taiwan Cafe, Gourmet Dumpling House, Dumpling Cafe, Dumpling House, and Shangri-La. I also love the hot pots at Little Q (more recently moved to Arlington) and the more unique "dong=bei" (Northeastern Chinese) food at Golden Garden, our favorite take-out place right outside of Cambridge. My all time favorite noodles? Hands down the hand-pulled noodles at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe.
My favorite high end sushi places are probably Uni Sashimi Bar and O Ya, both of which are Japanese inspired but not purely traditional Japanese. For less astronomical pricing, we love Cafe Sushi, which is creative, inventive, and overall delicious. Oishii has been a favorite in the past for traditional sushi, though recently I've been a bit more disappointed. Gen Sushi in Belmont is reasonably priced and serves generous portions of very fresh fish. Fugakyu has one of the best sushi lunch specials around and the old Cafe Sushi (before it got revamped!) used to be our favorite place for Sunday evening sushi dinner specials ($1/piece nigiri! - update, no longer available).
Hi Rise Bakery is one of my favorite bakeries (love love love their vanilla loaf) and also one of my favorite sandwich shops. My favorite ice cream is from Toscanini's (though his brother’s place Rancatore’s is awesome as well) and my favorite pizza is from Emma's or Area Four. My favorite burgers are from Bartley's and (surprise!) Capital Grille, while Bryan loves the burgers at Craigie on Main, Radius (no longer open) and Smith & Wollensky.
What have been some of your favorite dining experience ever? In the world?
One of my most memorable dining experiences was at Kyubey in Tokyo, my first real omakase experience.Kyubey is a sushi place right down the street from Tsukiji Fish Market. We got the omakase and essentially had our personal sushi chef for most of the meal, creating interesting bites for us. All the chefs speak excellent English, so it's very convivial and friendly experience.
I've had some pretty incredible sushi experiences in Tokyo, including the world famous Sukiyabashi Jiro, Sushi Mizutani (Jiro's disciple), and many, many others.
As a seafood lover, my favorite restaurant in terms of food is probably Le Bernardin in New York City. One of my favorite dining experiences was at Daniel, where the service, food, everything was so impeccable, it really made for an unforgettable experience. I also love dumplings, and therefore Din Tai Fung in Taiwan (and China!) is also one of my favorite dining places in the world.
I love interacting with my readers through comments the blog. I like to think of the blog as a forum for communication about food. Although I offer lots of information on the blog, I have also learned a lot of things from my readers. The communication totally goes both ways, and I love it that way! So please, feel free to leave comments and say hello. I definitely read every single one. 🙂
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