Wednesday, January 30, 2013

J. Crew Inspired Crystal Collar Herringbone Sweater DIY

I've long admired the J. Crew Crystal Collar Herringbone sweater, but only just now had some time to try making an inspiration piece.

I actually went about this making 2 pieces - the top and a corresponding necklace.  I didn't have the patience to hand-sew all of the crystals onto the collar and then worry about how it'd do in the washing machine, so took the easy way out.

I made the top using a heavy weight cream-colored knit and a silk-blend herringbone fabric.  I modified Butterick's B5520 pattern to become a tee-like top (with slimmed sleeves and chest), rather than a dress bodice.  If you are sleeves-phobic, this is a VERY good pattern because all of the seaming is straight and you don't have to fiddle with easing a sleeve into an armscye (something I am TERRIBLE at).  The peter pan collar was hand drafted.

The necklace is made from crystals woven into a collar pattern (trial & error) using Beadalon as the stringing material.

I've also been using my serger for narrow hemming some scarves, so be on the lookout for a scarf giveaway soon!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Plaid Peplum DIY Project

I started this project quite a bit ago and only just now got around to taking photos of it.  Inspired by Phiphi's tartan peplum, I made this out of a navy / hunter green plaid fabric.  I also made a removable collar to layer underneath this top and my sweaters.  I do love a good interchangeable piece :)

 How I wore it:
DIY Peplum Top
Old Navy Bow Belt, LOFT Blazer, and F21 Necklace (all old)

I got to try out Hog Island Oysters with Ping yesterday and we met Karen for a little shopping afterwards.  We, unfortunately, did not find any vintage treasures, but I did find out they are fellow green tea enthusiasts and we plan to get together again soon for some green tea tiramisu (the one from Jess's instagram) :)  It is so lovely to be able to get together with fellow bloggers!

Top: Clam Chowder
Bottom: Oyster Stew
Right: Grilled Cheese
Mmm, mmm good!

Waiting for our food (Ping on left, me on right)

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Easy DIY Alteration Tutorial: Slimming Pants

A few weeks back, a reader asked if I could do a tutorial on how to slim pants.  I actually had quite a few pairs in queue for slimming, so perfect timing!  :)

EDIT: Turn your pants inside out for marking up and sewing!  Thanks Jean - I totally forgot to mention that! 

Questions?  Leave them in the comments, tweet me, or email me :)

Happy altering!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Quest for XLB (Shanghai Juicy Dumplings)

Another food post?  What can I say?  I've been doing a lot of eating and a little less of sewing (doing mostly alterations at the moment which always makes me fret that I'm going to ruin something and thus takes seemingly much longer than "from scratch") though I intend to go back soon!

Sometimes I dream of the perfect reality show, "The Next Xiao Long Bao Idol", where I am, of course, the judge / dictator (judgetator?).  I would tell my contestants to make me a bao (bun) with the 3 tenets of XLB:
  1. Thin, delicate bao skin - so thin, it's translucent and you can see the yummy broth inside.  Not so thin, that it spills said yummy broth.
  2. Tender, flavorful pork filling w/ or w/o crab
  3. A generous portion of rich, savory broth.  Must gush, not unlike a water balloon.  Broth also must have depth.  Not just water + salt + bouillon.
Drool...  Ahem, I've gotten ahead of myself.  To those unfamiliar, a Xiao Long Bao (XLB) is a Shanghai Juicy Dumpling.  Directly translated, it's a Little Basket (Dragon? They sound the same and I can no longer read.  This is what happens when I stop using what I've learned) Bun.  It's a golf ball-sized dumpling encompassing soup and meat.  When you bite into it, you literally get an explosion of flavor.  I was skeptical at first, thinking I could get the same effect by placing a dumpling on a spoon full of soup.  But I was WRONG.  It. Is. SO. GOOD. 

If you ever want to try but don't live near a restaurant with XLB, get the frozen version found in many Asian markets.  It's an ok representation enough to whet your appetite for more.  Don't overcook it though!  The meat will get tough and your bao might deflate and leak out that juicy goodness.  Then if you become a fan, I highly recommend you visit your nearest Din Tai Fung or San Francisco's Shanghai Dumpling King.

Ah DTF, this is the holy grail of XLB
There's a Ding Tai Fung in Toronto (pictured above) and then there's the international chain Din Tai Fung that started in Taiwan.  I've tried the Toronto version and the official chain version in LA.  I have to say that the Toronto one was a little bit better with a larger portion of broth.  I hear the Taiwan one is the best though and I hope to someday try it out!

If you should hold the bao by the tip, you will see the bottom sag from the weight of the soup.  The amazing thing is that despite the abundant soup and the thin skin, this skin will not break!  The consistent quality of their wrappers means that every single bao will deliver that joyous gush of broth.

In San Francisco, I've tried XLB at the Yelp-recommended eateries, Shanghai Dumpling King and Kingdom of Dumpling.  I'll start with my favorite of the 2, Shanghai Dumpling King:
Shanghai Dumpling King - Pork version
When I first saw these, I was a little worried about broth content as the wrappers looked like they had shrunken against the filling and no soup was in sight.

But I was wrong!

See this poofiness?  Indicative of an intact wrapper containing deliciousness within

The crab version had even more broth inside!

Crab version

Pan Fried Pork Buns
This was good, but the filling (only took up maybe 1/3 of the hollow space inside the bao) to bao ratio was off.  It was awfully pretty though.

Onion Pancake
Light, thin, and crispy!

Fresh Soy Milk

I used to view the wrapper portion of XLB as merely the vessel holding the tastiness within.  At Shanghai Dumpling King, even the wrapper was incredibly flavorful.  I don't know how they do it, but those guys / gals really understand flavors and EVERYTHING (wrapper, filling, broth) we had there was well-developed, complex, and YUMMY.

I usually prefer either the pork version OR the crab version at a given eatery, but both were so good here that I plan to eat 5 of each every time I visit.  Should I mention that each basket of 10 costs only $5.50 (I think the crab is only slightly more expensive)???  Heaven, I tell you.  If you live or visit the area, I highly recommend you try their XLB.  

How does it compare to DTF?  The skin is much thinner and also more delicate.  A wrong move means a popped dumpling.  I recommend using your chopsticks to carefully roll it onto a spoon.  I think I only popped 1 of the ~15 I ate this way while Mom (a little on the stubborn side) popped half of hers by picking up the tip with her chopsticks.  Ultimately, I think SDK has better flavor, but DTF has better consistency and their XLB always looks beautiful (never deflated).  You can't really go wrong with either.

And Kingdom of Dumpling:
Kingdom of Dumpling 
The XLB here are decent, but unfortunately not up to par with DTF.  See the skin in the left photo? Not thin enough to see the broth.  See the chopstick test?  Bao does not droop with the weight of the broth. The filling was tender and each bao had a good amount of soup, but I felt like both needed a little more seasoning and richness.  

BUT I will say the other items we ordered were delicious:
Beef Ho Fun
Has wok hei (the breath of a hot wok imparts a unique flavor to dishes similar to the flavor that grills add to a burger) and bursts with flavor.

Pork Dumplings
Tender, moist, and flavorful fillings with the perfect skin.  Not too thin to break apart and not too thick to seem dough-y.

Next on my list to try is Yank Sing.  Bay area foodies, do you have any additional XLB eatery recommendations?

Off topic, does anyone play the app "Ruzzle"?  It's a Boggle-esque game where you can play against anyone.  If any of you happen to be bored, look me up!  I am "sewsilly" :)

And I am getting acquainted with Instagram (yes, it only took me years to get onboard), so you can find me there @sewpetitegal


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