Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chinese Food

This is all pretty self-explanatory. Foodbuzz, my company, went on another field trip for chinese food. As our new offices are located about one block from Chinatown, our options are pretty much endless. This time is was Oriental Pearl that struck our fancy. We all wanted to do Chinese again because two weeks ago we went to R&G and it was delicious, plus our table had this huge lazy susan which really helped the 14 of us share a family style meal.The meal came rolling out starting with dumplings, shown above. These were ok, a bit greasy, but not terrible especially when dressed up with some chili sauce and soy sauce.
Sweet and Sour (Hot and Sour??) soup was up next. This was nice on a cold day. It was very spicy but I really enjoyed it, I would say that this was the best part of the meal. Fried Rice and sweet and sour prawns arrived after this. I picked most of the pork out of the fried rice, but it was pretty basic.
They were good in that "I know this is terrible for me and full of crap" way. Oh well, I can eat veggies tomorrow. Some sweet and sour chicken and Cashew chicken finished off my meal. These were also sub par. I don't know what was so much better than R&G compared to Oriental Pearl, but they really were different. Maybe it was the greasiness factor. Same with the cashew chicken, it had the elements it was supposed to but lacked something. There was Mogolian beef as well but I didn't eat it. Still not there with the red meat yet. Actually I am going back and forth about whether or not cut it out completely again. I'm not sure. We'll see. Maybe for a month and then I can reassess. See how I feel, how John feels, etc. That is my main problem right now. He isn't content eating some veggies and a few bites of cottage cheese for dinner like I am. And I don't know how I feel about making us separate meals. Actually I do know how I feel, I would hate it. Something to ponder...

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Made Steak

Most typical Americans have probably made and eaten countless steaks in their life and it does not warrant a blog entry or a pat on the back. But I am a novice, to say the least, at both making and consuming steak. But John wanted steak, is anyone else noticing a theme here, and I said okay. Off we went to Trader Joe's to pick up a week's worth of groceries. After waiting in the incessant line on Masonic Ave. we finally got into the parking lot. Now I love Trader Joe's as much as the next person, but they really need to widen their aisles a bit. It is no longer the little local market, it is always packed and I get so annoyed dodging people and carts and small children as I try to grab the last box of whole wheat couscous and load up on Two Buck Chuck.
We also grabbed some steaks for that night. I was a little nervous, but I found a package that had 2 medium size steaks and a baby steak for me, so I thought that I could handle that. We got home and I went to work. I cooked the steaks on my cast iron grill pan on the stove after covering them with salt and pepper. While they were cooking I started on my wine sauce. Simmer one cup of wine, I used a nice Zinfandel, for about 6-8 minutes, then remove it from the heat and slowly stir in 2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, in small pieces. I then actually placed the sauce back over the heat in hopes to thicken it up a little more.I made some couscous and sauteed some veggies on the side too. I always keep frozen stir veggies in the freezer and I am trying to actually use the food that I have stored in my pantry and freezer. So out came the TJ's stir fry veggies, a combo of carrots, broccoli, water chestnuts, red bell pepper, and onions. I like these and they are simple, healthy and easy. Plus I really love cooked carrots and water chestnuts. I like the softness of the carrots and the crunch of the chestnuts. Yum!While this meal was quite tasty, I must admit it was not the beautiful thing I have ever created. The wine sauce bled all over the plate and into the couscous, which made everything taste good but look like a murder scene. Oh well. Maybe I will try it another time but plate the steak over mashed potatoes so the sauce goes all over that, it might look a little like a volcano! Nice. Dinner was great though. John was impressed with my steak making skills (wow!) and it was actually pretty healthy. If you look at my plate you see that my steak is actually quite small and the majority of the plate is the veggies and couscous. I guess I am in tune with what all the nutritionists and dieticians tell everyone about how to plate their plates (half veggies and one quarter protein, the other quarter carbs, I think). Anyway, dinner was tasty, that's the most important part!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

John is the Birthday Boy

We started John's birthday celebration earlier than the actual day with a somewhat surprise dinner at the Hyde Street Bistro. I mean somewhat surprise because John and his brother (John is an identical twin, hence the double birthday celebration) both knew that there was a dinner and some friends were coming, they just didn't know the extent of it. And then when they were at their most favorite place in the world Shanghai Kelly's getting a beer before dinner and a couple of their friends rolled in I believe that the suspicion became stronger.
They walked into the restaurant accompanied by my self and Jeff's girlfriend Natalie, who set the whole thing up (thanks Nat!), and I believe they were both blown away. There was an entire wall of tables filled by their friends. It was was really fun to see the reaction, and of course to see everyone there. The tables were filled with blown up laminated photos of the boys through the years, some of which were pretty funny (my favorite is the picture of the two of them dressed up as Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen for a New Year's Eve costume party. They look indescribably funny. Those girls are so tiny and John and Jeff are about 6'5" wearing these tiny baby doll shirts with the names on them).

Natalie had set up a prix fix menu (check out the personalization above!) and I wanted to eat everything that was on it, but fortunately John, Alyssa and I decided to split everything that we ordered, or at least give each other bites. I ordered the house smoked salmon with capers, red onion, tomato, lemon and olive oil on toast. It was delicious. I am a particularly large fan of smoked salmon, lox, and any other type of salmon, so I was in heaven. And it was delicious. The salmon was perfect, the toast was crispy yet chewy, and I got to make my own little sandwiches to eat. John doesn't love smoked salmon like this, he prefers when it is cured to the texture that you typically find smoked trout, but oh well, more for me. I took a few bites of John's warm goat cheese salad and Alyssa's beet salad and would get those again too. I was quite pleased with our appetizers if you can't tell. We had a lovely red wine to wash all of this down and I wish that I could remember for the life of me what it was. Perhaps a Tempranillo? But I also remember it being Italian, so that makes no sense. Oh well. I really need to write this stuff down because I stare at labels and say, that's good, I should remember it, and then blip, it's gone.

For our main courses I had the ling cod with lemon tapenade, saffron rice pilaf, ratatouille, and spinach. John naturally got the hangar steak with french fries and I would never expect anything else from him, my boy likes his steak! I may have had a few of his french fries. Or half. Whatever. This second fish course was not as good as the first. I'm not sure why not, something just missed. All the ingredients seemed fresh and I know that that the food there is usually wonderful, so who knows. Sometimes people just have an off night, or maybe the recipe was lacking. But it was good enough to eat most of. We finished it off with dessert, with a candle in it naturally! I had Il Flotante, Floating Islands, one of my favorite traditional French desserts. Basically I like anything in creme anglaise so I was a happy girl!
Here we are happily celebrating!

And here are Jeff and Natalie holding down the fort on the other end of the table.
Hyde Street Bistro
1521 Hyde Street (between Pacific and Jackson)
San Francisco, Ca 94109

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bocadillos- Little Bites

My grandparents were in town and they were going to be a few blocks from my office, so I decided to meet them and my mom for lunch. Since they don't San Francisco as well as I do, I chose the restaurant and was i excited to do so. I went to Bocadillos once a few years ago and I have been eager to return ever since. We plopped down at one of their communal tables and went about ordering from their delicious menu. It is a tapas restaurant so you get to choose one of two sandwiches. This was the hardest part of I ultimately chose the tuna melt and the double cheese tomato and basil. We started out with the beet salad with harissa vinaigrette.

As per the usual, I forgot to take a picture before I dove into the salad, so I will defend Chef Hirigoyen and say that his presentation was much lovelier than my photo shows. And the dressing was really interesting. It included all those warm Middle Eastern flavors that are so often in Spanish cuisine that I typically don't cook with. The four of us pretty much devoured it in just a few minutes. Then I was off to my sandwiches.
They were both warm and toasty and actually quite a lot of food, that did not stop me from finishing every bite! The tuna was that great Spanish tuna canned in oil that everyone should always use to make tuna sandwiches (that or the Italian tonno). And I've never met a warm cheese and tomato sandwich that I don't like, so I was in heaven. My grandparents and my mom enjoyed their meals as well, my grandfather Kane got a soup that was particularly tasty. I plan on returning to the restaurant soon. My only complaint would be that it was a bit noisy for my grandparents, but I don't care as much about that sort of thing.

Here we are after a nice meal, three generations of girls!

Monday, November 10, 2008


I rarely make posts about the wine we drink in Napa because, honestly, I am not a wine snob but more of an appreciator. I am terrible at remembering what I drank but I am attempting to pay more attention. But I actually took some photos this time in an attempt to motivate a blog and entry and, well, he we are!
Johnny and I went to Calistoga to meet up with his roommate from law school and his wife who were in town visiting the wine country. We left the city early Saturday morning and made the lovely drive into the Napa Valley. Now Napa never ceases to dazzle my senses with its beauty, but John and I have gone up there literally at least twice a month for the last 5 months, so it isn't a very big deal and it can be a nuisance. But we went to two wineries I had never been to, so that was a nice change.
We started out at Schramsberg which makes delicious sparkling wine. John and I were late, much to his chagrin (I am a sort of grin and bear it girl when it comes to being late. I figured we're just going wine tasting and there is nothing we can do about it right now, so we might as well enjoy the drive and even the traffic in St. Helena and relax. But John was incensed at our tardiness and in a bad mood. Oh well). We roll up to Schramsberg and race to find his friends Matt and Kate within the caves of the place, which was not an easy feat. I am always amazed when running around these wine caves. They are so cool inside and hidden from the outside of the buildings. But we finally found them in one of the inner cave rooms in the middle of the tasting. We tasted two sparkling wines in this room, one which was 25% chardonnay and 75% pinot noir, and the other was 25% pinot noir and 75% chard. I liked the latter (I think). The room we were standing in was amazing and it really is incredible to be in these huge cask rooms with low hanging chandeliers and enormous casks of wine surrounding you.
The wine was perfect, not only because it helped us unwind from a stressing car trip, but also because it was just light and bubbly enough. I soon found out why this was, of course.
John and I walked into the store at Schramsberg and I was all geared up to buy a few bottles, until I saw the prices. The sparkling wine I liked, the Reserve, was $100 a bottle. Too much for my little checkbook. Oh well. It was a lovely time spent, so I can't really complain.

Next we drove over the Chateau Montelena, pictured above. It really is quite beautiful. John and I indulged ourselves with the library tasting which his friends already had reservations for. Unfortunately I didn't know it was $80 for the two of us until after I paid. I was very glad I didn't spend $100 on a bottle of champagne after that!
The tasting was great. Very informative, and I had no idea that the movie Bottle Shock, which I want to see but haven't yet, is all about Montelena. That added and extra motivation to rent it when it comes out. We tasted about 5 wines (I think) and John and I took a nice tour of the grounds.
I think our favorite part of the day came next though. The four of us went over to Kate's family friend's shop, the Calistoga Wine Shop, and had more tastings.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

La Mar

When my dad offered to take me out to lunch the other day I instantly blurted out "La Mar."
"What?" he inquired, then offering up his suggestion of Il Fornaio.
I said "Dad, there's this new restaurant that just opened up at Pier 1 1/2 and it is supposed to be amazing. It's by this Peruvian superstar and it's his first restaurant in North America."
Dad took the bait and the next day we were off to La Mar.
We walked into the cavernous space along the Bay and I was immediately struck by the bright colors of the place. The theme is obviously turquoise and bright green, as the color motif ran along the menus, the placemats, and even the blue lights that ran along the bottom side of the bar. The main dining room was jammed so Dad and I grabbed a seat along the large and empty bar. Immediately we were brought out the following:The basket is filled with plantain, potato, and sweet potato chips. They were lightly fried and delicious, perfect to dip in the three sauces that were offered. My pretty chips. I definitely ate too many of these.

For starters Dad and I ordered a ceviche. They have a whole list of them on the menu and I have no idea what the others taste like, but this was incredible. I have had ceviche a number of times in my life and typically it's just some raw fish covered with acid (lemon or some other citrus) and has some cilantro, onions and tomatoes along side. I have no idea what is in this or why the sauce was such a brilliant shade of yellow, but whatever they did, they did it right. I wanted to drink the bowl!
Following was another starter of crab atop a bed of potatoes. Sounds pretty simple, right? I have never in my life tasted potatoes that melted in my mouth quite like these. It was incredible, amazing, awesome. This was part of a section called causas. Apparently there are a variety of fishes you can get atop the potatoes, I saw blue potatoes served as well.
I am not sure how to describe the velvety texture and taste that can do these justice, but I could eat these every day (if I could afford it).
Next came the mussels. These were really the only disappointment in my mind. The salsa on top was too much for a mouth full and the flavor just didn't measure up to the earlier dishes. The white on top are HUGE kernels of corn only found in Peru. They were very pretty and tasty, but didn't exactly blend with the other flavors.
My dad ordered this amazing main course which I ate about half of. It was a sea food medley called the Macho, one of many classic Peruvian dishes and stews. Honestly, nothing I would have probably have ordered on my own. But the flavors here were also out of this world. I tasted tastes I have never tasted before! The menu described it as Roasted grouper with Manila clams, calamari, ají panca stew and green tamale cream.
For the finalmente dad insisted on dessert. My stomach went ugh but my mind and mouth said "yes please." We ordered a dessert with pumpkin and sweet potato which was drizzled with, what tasted to me, a molasses type sauce.
On a whole I would absolutely return to La Mar. It was one of the best dining experiences I have had in a long time. It was expensive, but worth it. Thanks Dad! Check them out!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

President Obama!

This is not a food or cooking post and I have been a delinquent blogger, but I have to express my joy that Obama has been elected. The people have spoken!!!