Saturday, March 31, 2007
following the allagash + chocolate event at city beer store on thursday night (read allagash + chocolate posting), janel and i went across the street to basil thai. she said she went there once with ellie once and thought it wasn't bad. since we were hungry-ish (and probably lazy to walk anywhere else), we gave it a shot.
as you walk into basil thai, you notice the modestly light contemporary decor, reminding me of those 'cool hip' restaurants opening during the dot-com era (yes, i was once a dot-commie). basil thai opened around the height of the SOMA rebirth and death of the dot-com... yet it remains unlike it's many cohorts. we were seated at the back end of the restaurant next to a large party. the second thing you were notice is the noise level. it's loud. it was hard to hear janel but don't worry, i was listening.
their menu was big and very thai. "there's more to the menu?!" said a surprised janel. it's more gourmet than your usual small local thai places. apparently the kitchen was closing in fifteen minutes after we were seated. and our waiter was kindly rushing us to order (mean really really kind "i'm so sorry to rush you" bowing kind). we shared an order of pla-doo pad-pik (wok-fried catfish in red curry and peppercorns), pak rad kang (various vegetables in green curry), jasmine rice and sticky rice.
in the middle of a great conversation, dinner arrives. we pause. you can smell the thai curries. the rice plates were smaller than we imagine. the sticky rice was in a small ball and looking dry. no doubt that sticky rice is the leftovers from the night. remember we were eating when the kitchen was closing. although the lighting was yellowish dim, the color from the plates strikes you — reds, greens, yellows. "there's bell peppers!" warns janel. i hate bell peppers. red bell peppers are fine and i'll eat them but green, eck! i hate that raw grass taste.
the wok-fried catfish was crispy and covered in a beautiful red curry sauce. janel pointed out the peppercorns. there's a nice spicy peppery hotness to the catfish. the eggplant in the dish soothes the heat while it absorbed the surrounding flavors. that's one thing cool about eggplant... it takes in the flavors well while it has no 'real' distinctive taste of its own. the vegetable curries was also good, filled with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and sigh, bell peppers. the creamy green curry was nicely done to satisfy that thai craving without being runny and thin like bad thai places. it was a nice mixed with the spiciness of the catfish dish.
the night was getting late (11:45p). we finished a good portion of our dishes but not all of it. the service was polite but it's obvious that they wanted us out to close the place down. the restaurant crew were around the bar eating. we weren't the last two in the place... there's a party of four at the front end who were loud and deeply planted in their seats. after the third time, we've asked if we wanted to pack the dinner... we let them. i wish we were there a bit earlier because i wanted to see their dessert menu. but i bet it's pretty standard thai items. definitely a place to go for great thai food after some beers at city beer store. food: A-/B+ service: B+/A-
"this sounds fun... interested?" she asks.
anytime anyone has the idea of going to city beer store, i'm interested. located on the northern edge of soma (south of market), city beer store is a hidden gem for beer drinkers and beer nerds. the owner craig opened the shop under a year ago in a storefront of a "hip" loft complex. craig's idea came from wine tasting and wine bars which flooded every corner of this city like starbucks and locusts. his unique idea has created a beer cult. i don't visit city beer often but you'll see locals and familiar faces from previous visits. the shop has five fridges cooling selected beers while in the back corner have shelved individual bottles. you can either buy an bottle or a pack. the beers ranges from almost every country to every style of beer, depending what craig could get his hands on. in the center is a counter with small fridges where craig will chill your opened bottles along with four taps that rotates weekly. besides selling beer, there's a few beer glasses and books for sale.
[photo of the store by janel]
the event itself was a cool idea although i'm generally weary of anything pairing with chocolate. wine and chocolates? hell no. maybe vintage port. chocolate and bourbon? i don't know. wine and beer? what the?! chocolate usually works best on its own. luckily i was in good hands. janel was a former chocolate taster and has a stern palatte.
the first time i had a brew from allagash was around christmas. janel and ellie bought me a bottle of their curieux as a gift. allagash curieux is a tripel stored in bourbon casks for a few weeks. from the tap, the allagash tastes a bit different by being a little smoother. the color on first pour is a golden amber with a medium head. the scent was heavily fruity and citrus... with no hint of bourbon?! strange, where's the vanilla?! i recall from the bottled allagash that there was a subtle bourbon nose. did the kegged version lose it's bourbon-ness from storage? i don't know. however the fruits nose lead to a pear/apple taste which was crisp and malty without the bourbon flavors. has my tongue and nose adapted to the actual high proof bourbon? and hinting of bourbon doesn't really register with my senses?
so how did the curieux pair with the chocolates (80%? dark, cappuccino dark and milk)? not every well. craig said to concentrate on the bourbon vanilla of the beer when tasting. but the two just didn't work together. the dark was just ok. the cappuccino and the curieux was terrible. i recommend: never to leave any amount of cappuccino chocolate left on your tongue when taking a swig of beer. i flinched and scrunched my face... it's probably the same reaction i'll give when eating green bell peppers. the milk and curieux... er, nope. ok, so the pairing wasn't the greatest. however the chocolates were good. i can't remember the name of the dark chocolate one but it was janel's favorite when she was a chocolate taster. she has this expertise expression when she's smelling something. from her eyes, you can see she's registering and thinking about the scents given from the chocolates. whereas i'm like "WOHO! chocolates! me eat! me eat!"
the conclusion: i like allagash's curieux. it's a nice medium bodied beer that drinks well shared with company (like janel or a clone of her). and would definitely pair well with cheese. however the flavors of the beer and chocolates were battling each other like the armies of rohan and gondor duking it out with the hordes of orcs on the pelennor fields.
Friday, March 30, 2007
I didn’t mean to. I certainly didn’t start dinner Thursday night with such a thoroughly unhealthy intention. I didn’t even harbor much of an appetite and had no plans to blog about the meal. (Then again, when has lack of hunger ever prevented me from eating? Plus, it's so rare that I actually get any kind of hunger pangs!)
CabbageLover and I went to Mardi Gras Grill for boiled crawfish. (Boiled crawfish is one of my favorite things about living in Houston.) It was my third time at this joint. The first visit last year resulted in a lame, overpriced experience, when I mistakenly ordered a bland-tasting, unsatisfying entree of crab-stuffed shrimp. I remember leaving and thinking: I would’ve been so much happier with a Sourdough Jack or some Popeye’s Chicken. The second time I went, I was joined by a different crew, including LexingtonNative. We got a bunch of wonderfully seasoned crawfish and a few appetizers, among them LexingtonNative’s choice of fried pickle slices. Yum! She grew up eating the delicacy in Kentucky.
So this time, I knew what to get. CabbageLover and I started with a basket of pickles and two pounds of crawfish. We got two small red potatoes and two tiny pieces of corn on the cob with our crawfish. (I wish they’d give you more veggies, but I guess they don’t want you filling up on the cheap filler.) The pickles arrived first, with a mildly herbaceous buttermilk sauce (um, watery Ranch dressing, perhaps?). Wow! Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside and not a bit oily – even better than last time! Instantly I knew these pickles would become my next food obsession. As we neared the end of our two pounds of crawfish, I proposed another pound. Then we eyed the empty pickle basket. We wanted more, but could we, in good conscience, continue this deep-fried mania?
Of course. We caved and asked for a half order. Well, Mardi Gras Grill does not do half orders, we learned, so we got a regular, full order. CabbageLover mumbled something about bringing the leftovers home, but we polished them off completely. I bet they are fantastic on a burger.
I am definitely going for fried pickles in Lexington!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
My favorites on the can’t-miss menu:
- chickpea fries with curry ketchup
- pimento mac ‘n’ cheese
- rosemary biscotti with bleu cheese and honey.
I had a very girly, very refreshing Pom-tini (which included pomegranate, orange and grapefruit).
Sorry, no food/drink shots Wednesday; I'm a self-conscious photographer in darkened spaces, but working hard to shed that blog-hindering quality!
Monday, March 26, 2007
I like bananas, but am not a fan of banana baked goods. Banana bread/pudding/cream pie – ick! Earlier this month, though, I had a taste of Sprinkles Bakery’s banana cupcake with dark chocolate frosting and was hooked. (The irony is I had bought that particular treat for CabbageLover, who could also be called BananaBakedGoodsLover. I cut off a piece before giving him the bulk of it and, when I finally got around to tasting it, wished I had kept the rest.)
So since I do not live near a Sprinkles, I decided to make my own version. The occasion? Bollywood night at BollywoodLover’s pad. What better to go with spicy samosas and Rang De Basanti?
As with almost any of my cooking/baking endeavors, I stopped by Central Market to pick up some key, good-quality-within-my-price-range ingredients, including Callebaut chocolate chips. I based my cupcakes on a recipe for Banana Chip Snack Cake from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
Because my bananas weren’t as ripe as I needed, I roasted them in the oven to bring out the sugars. The reliable folks at Cook’s Illustrated are always good for tips like that.
For the frosting, I tweaked a cream cheese frosting recipe for carrot cake. I simply melted a chunk of chocolate, chopped, in my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl over simmering water, briefly cooled the bowl in ice water, then whipped in cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, salt, milk and vanilla extract. There’s nothing that makes my body and palate more miserable than excessive sugar, so I halved the amount of sugar the ATK recipe called for, beating in only ¾ cup. Next time, I’ll add unsweetened cocoa powder to deepen the chocolate flavor.
The batch made 16 cupcakes. To transport them 1 ½ miles, I placed 11 cupcakes in a 12-cupcake pan. When I arrived at BollywoodLover’s place, the missing 12th cupcake came up.
You ate it, didn’t you? she and her guests interrogated me.
Yup, I had to make sure I was offering up a decent dessert, I replied.
I didn’t let on that 4 other cupcakes hadn’t made the journey over, either.
Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Adapted from the Banana Chip Snack Cake recipe in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Makes 16 cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 very ripe large bananas, peeled and mashed (1 cup)*
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans.
Beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape the bowl and beaters as needed.
Beat in the bananas, milk and vanilla.
Whisk the flour mixture into the egg mixture until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the liners, filling each about 2/3 full. Smooth the tops. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a knife inserted into a cupcake center comes out with a few crumbs attached.
Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack before frosting.
*Note: If your bananas are yellow but not ripe enough, roast them unpeeled in the oven for 15 minutes. Cool before using.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
palm-size chunk of semisweet chocolate, chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
¾ cup powdered sugar (more if needed and/or to taste)
Stir the chocolate until melted in a steel or glass mixing bowl over a pot of simmering water. Cool the bowl in ice water.
Once the melted chocolate has cooled, add the cream cheese and butter and beat until combined. Beat in the milk, vanilla, salt and sugar until the frosting is fluffy.
CF first told me about xiao long bao years ago, but we could never find any in Houston. I finally had my first taste of it in 2005, at Joe’s Shanghai in New York City. I had just finished dim sum with two cousins and, as we left the restaurant, I realized we were just blocks from a location of the touristy chain. I suggested we go for its famous soup dumplings. My cousins – neither of them a regular dining partner of mine since we don’t live in the same city – thought I was crazy. Admittedly, we were all stuffed. But the sometimes-food-writer-in-me felt it was perfectly normal to visit one restaurant right after another (and another…). So they humored me and went along and we had a fun, delicious time eating too much.
My second taste was when CF and I went to Yank Sing in San Francisco in 2006. I was in town for a friend’s Berkeley wedding, but made sure I had a full day to devote to the foods of SF. It was just CF and me, but we got every piece of dim sum that appealed. I remember wishing we had ordered two portions of those dumplings; they were so good.
I knew not to get my hopes up for the xiao long bao in Houston. If they turned out to be decent enough for a quick fix, I would be happy.
They were. I do wish the dumpling wrappers had been thinner and as delicate as Yank Sing’s, but no complaints about the meat filling and savory broth inside.
CabbageLover and I also tried one of my favorite Chinese dishes, creamy honey walnut shrimp, along with pork lo mein and spicy Beijing noodles. The Beijing noodles were lacking in heat and too heavy on the peanut butter. At first glance, the roast pork and skinny egg noodles seemed utterly boring, but the broth was flavorful and the dish grew on us till the bowl was empty. The walnut shrimp were nicely cooked, but they were so heavily dressed in the mayonnaise-based sauce that I couldn’t truly enjoy the dish.
But back to my beloved dumplings. Next time I’m in L.A., I’m definitely trekking to Din Tai Fung. And you can bet that my trip to China later this year will be full of xiao long bao!
Sunday, March 25, 2007
staple. a fucking giant industrial staple was in my cole slaw. how does that happen?! luckily it didn't cut me. luckily it didn't chip a tooth. luckily i didn't swallow it. burgermeister... you're so damn lucky.
the day was pretty busy. the entire afternoon my family were at the cemetery for chinese version of 'day of the dead' which we honor our passed family members. afterwards, we were wondering what's for dinner. we happened to be around the westlake village where a new burgermeister restaurant opened. "i'm dying for a burger," i said to my parents.
"but we're eating at grandpa's for dinner," my mom replied.
"oh, yeah. i wonder if grandpa would eat burger."
"i want a burger."
my dad chimes in, "yeah grandpa eats hamburgers. and i want a hamburger too."
i guess the urge for a burger hit us all.
after a phone call to grandpa, we pick him up from his house. he was napping after the cemetery visit. along the drive, he was reading the burger meister menu. he says "the last burger i had was dry. this better be good."
we sat down my parents and grandpa ordered a regular hamburger with fries. my dad also added a plate of buffalo wings. i ordered a cheeseburger with a pint of fat tire and a side of cole slaw. yes, i like cole slaw. besides there were three plates of fries to pick from. ten minutes later, our dinner arrives. we all were hungry. i even took pictures of the food before we took our first bites.
i steal from fries from my mom's plate and lefted a wing from my dad. watching my grandpa eat a buffalo wing was so funny. i don't think he ever had one. "SO HOT!" he was scrapping the sauce off.
after awhile, i could see the reaction to the food. my mom said "it's good. but a little over cook. i wanted medium and it's well done." my dad agreed. my grandpa didn't look too happy. mumbling in chinese "it's a bit dry."
my mom said " i have to order medium rare next time." my burger which was ordered medium was half pinkish on the medium rare side to well done on the other. how is that possible? no idea. their grill must be wonky.
i already had a few bites into my cole slaw during the meal. with my burger two thirds finished... i need a break from beef. i took a scoop of shaw... chew... "what's this? a bone." chew. "weird." i spat the entire scoop.
"WHOA! what the hell is this?! a freaking staple?!" i was staring at an inch long industrial staple that's typically used for crates. now how the fuck did something like that get into my cole slaw? i tasted metal in my mouth now.
my mom freaked, "did you cut yourself?!"
"get our waiter. show someone!"
"ok... that's just weird."
i walked up to the counter where i was greeted by three staffers. one of them being the manager, he said "hi." then looked at me with a "holy shit" expression. "are you ok?! are you bleeding?"
"no. i'm ok. i was just chewing and just noticed something weird. how did a staple get into my cole slaw?"
"i'm so sorry. are you ok? are you injured?" he pauses then answers my question. "it must have been in the package of our lettuce. i just don't know what to say. the dinner is on us."
"just so weird!" i said with probably a bewildered expression. i sat back down. i pushed the cole slaw away.
"but you love cole slaw," said my mom with a laugh.
i took another bite from my burger but i lost all desire to eat. i push away my plate. i taste metal. i taste zinc.
the manager and our waiter comes by and apologizes again, tearing up our check. we eventually walked out. however we left a tip of ten dollars since our waiter was attentive before the incident... also the manager was very heartfelt. it's no fault of theirs but it's so disgusting to discover an unwanted surprise in your dinner.
on the drive home, i felt puke-ish. i taste metal. the idea of a staple and the possibility of swallowing it made me nervous. i gagged a bit. my dad dropped me off at the house before we dropped my grandpa back to his home. i walked into the bathroom and threw up a bit. i rinsed my mouth with three full cups of mouthwash. i taste metal. and i kept thinking about the possibility of swallowing the staple. i kept thinking about the possible dirt and germs on the staple. i taste metal. i walk into my kitchen area and pour a glass of bourbon. i rinse and swallow.
i still taste metal.
burgermeister @ westlake village, you're so damn lucky. whoever is your supplier of chopped lettuced should be scolded. even your cooks should be scolded for not noticing an inch long staple! burger meister... you're so lucky that i didn't cut myself. burger meister you're so lucky i'm didn't create a scene. sorry, but i'm not going back for a long while.
worse, i'm giving up cole slaw.
[writer's note: sorry for the grammar... i'm typing on the fly while the experience is still fresh in my mind.]
Saturday, March 24, 2007
you can't get any simpler than naming your restaurant after an alphabet. located in the inner richmond on clement street, Q is simple american comfort food with a southwestern twist. Q's menu is vasts with a hamburger, pork chops, fried chicken and daily seafood specials. what makes Q so unique about their menu is the listed wine pairing with each item. this is the third time i've eaten here. their brunch is an egg lovers' heaven with your usual omelet to poached eggs on corn beef hash.
my friends janel, ellie and myself went to Q after an art opening at the park life gallery across the street. like usual, there's a line at Q with a 45 minutes wait. yes, 45 minutes. after a few minutes of wondering around waiting, we decided it was too cold to be outside and we settled at the bar. Q has a huge wine list with several beers on tap. janel orders a north coast scrimshaw pilsner while i ordered a deschutes black butte porter which she said was really good. as for ellie... well, she was still looking through the wine list. the porter was really gentle, smooth and hints a bit of chocolate. most porters tend to have a quick bitter kick finish but this one didn't. i took a little sip from janel's pilsner and i was WOWed. this philsner was so crisp, clean, light and hoppy. this is a wonderful pilsner for summer-in-the-sun drinking. janel and ellie took a sip from my porter and gave a nod of approval. eventually, ellie makes a move and orders a glass of wine. but the bar gave her a little hassle for wanting a taste. they were pretty stingy. but we couldn't figure out why. they had a few opened bottles of the same label. the wait was long and filled with a random conversation between the three of us. i finished my porter and ordered a pilsner.
thirty minutes has passed and the waitress seats us. Q is very eccentric. one wall near the bar is a painted blackboard with their specials. along another wall is a series of steel sheets with magnetic letters. there's wrought iron artwork with stringed lights of chili peppers. with whatever letters we had, the girls spells out: "who r u texan."
while we were waiting at the bar, we looked through the menu. so when we were seated... we knew what we wanted. janel ordered the catfish and chips. [i know i mentioned janel was a vegetarian in a previous posting but vegetarianism doesn't mean no fish.] ellie ordered the pork chops. and i ordered the sesame crusted ahi tuna with coconut rice. without any disagreement from janel and i, ellie ordered a dish of mussels.
the mussels were gralicy and spicy. it was worth every bite. i noticed ellie fighting a every single mussel but she resisted and shared. in previous conversations, she mentioned she once hated shellfish (she still does) but grew to love mussels after a trip to france. with all the mussels done, we ordered some more bread to dunk into the sauce.
janel gave me a bit of her catfish which was very light. the taste of catfish is subtle. it's very gentle and not too oily. i generally eat catfish the chinese way: steamed with green onion and coated in a soy sauce/sesame oil sauce. surpringly the frying of the catfish didn't overwhelm the flesh. ellie's pork chops were tender and juicy.
i really like my ahi tuna. i mean really liked. "like it? i love it? ... i want to take it behind the middle school and get it pregnant."* the tuna was thickly crusted with sesame, surrounding really tasty coconut rice, and topped off with wasbi mustard. the presentation was amazing with its pea pods pretending to be sun-rays.
after finishing our meals, we tried to decide on dessert but i think we were take too long. the restaurant crew were cleaning up and preparing to shut down the kitchen. eventually, we told one of the waitress that we're done for the night. B+/A-
* quote from tracy jordan (tracy morgan) in 30 rock from the episode, "hard ball."
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
But that’s what I think about most when I recall my late lunch last year at Pasha, a quaint Turkish restaurant in Rice Village. I had ordered grilled baby lamb chops – good grill flavor, albeit overcooked – and ended up gobbling every last bit of the magenta side of shredded cabbage. As soon as I finished, I wanted more.
So I returned Tuesday, this time for dinner, with CabbageLover.
- phyllo-wrapped feta rolls
- baby lamb chops with the cabbage, plus tomato, green bell pepper, red onion and rice
- Turkish pizza with Turkish sausage (spicy, not hot)
The calf's liver appetizer called out to me, but having had a poor liver dish a few months ago at the otherwise swell Mary'z, I couldn't justify ordering another liver dish with only one companion to share the potential artery-clogging misery. It is meant for a bigger group on a different day.
CabbageLover and I had just had Yia Yia Mary’s hummus Sunday, so we couldn’t help but compare the two versions. Pasha’s was nuttier and lacked a lemony bite. We preferred Yia Yia Mary's runnier dip, but both were good (it’s hard to go wrong with hummus, I say). I wonder: Was it a difference in restaurants or countries (or both)?
The cheese in the phyllo-feta rolls tasted more brie than feta to me. That salty kick was just not there and it had a funkiness that seemed odd for feta. Still, we ate all four pieces. Addictive? Absolutely.
The Turkish pizza arrived in the shape of a flattened football. The menu listed a “thick crust” and all I could think about – dread, really -- was if it’d be as thick as the greasy pan Pizza Hut pies of my youth. Thankfully, it was not. It was also sliced into thin strips v. wedges. I longed for some more spice and CabbageLover wanted herbs and feta sprinkled on top. The salty Turkish sausage reminded me of Spanish chorizo. It wasn't hard to grab another piece...and another after that.
I didn’t like my lamb as much this time, maybe ‘cause I specified medium-rare and the chops didn’t arrive very hot, as CabbageLover so thoughtfully noted. I loved the rice, though, which had taken on some of that great grill flavor from the lamb. So it looks like my ideal dish at Pasha is grilled lamb-flavored rice and pickled cabbage. Wonder how much that would cost?
I didn’t get as much cabbage this time, though, because I was with CabbageLover. I very graciously offered him more than half of the pickled side and, no surprise, he took it!
I will have to return without him.
(My once-fabulous camera was on the fritz again, so no food shots. Darn. I actually remembered to bring it this time, too.)
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Trader Joe's: Are you listening?!
Rolls: Spicy Salmon, Spider, Unagi
Salads: Seaweed, Cucumber
I generally order the Red River miso soup here, a semi-fiery broth with shrimp, crab, fish, tofu and glass noodles. It’s big enough for two meals. But since I was with a recent convert to the delights of sushi -- who had not had sushi since Saturday and needed his fix -- we shared some rolls. It was a beautiful Houston day, perfect for dining al fresco.
SushiLover, by the way, is a food blogger’s ideal dining companion. He does not complain as you arrange and rearrange dishes to get decent shots. In fact, he helped set up a few.
Anyway, back to the fish. I’ve only had sushi at Azuma once – with SushiLover and another friend, though SushiLover did not even like sushi at the time -- and found it a bit lacking. The fish was too mushy then. Same thing happened again with my spicy salmon roll. The flavor? Fine, if not very spicy. That’s why I go the Red River route. (For lunchtime sushi, I usually head to Tropioca for a to-go tray from Cafe Japon.)
What pleased me this time at Azuma was the unagi. While trying to decide which eel roll to order, I asked the waiter about the difference between the freshwater unagi and saltwater anago. Fatty v. lean, he answered. The choice for my butter- and pate-loving palate was obvious! The unagi was rich and a tad sweet from the sauce; I would’ve been very happy eating that eel with a bowl of rice.
The rest of our food was pleasant but not memorable. More enjoyable was watching SushiLover pile on the wasabi and eventually drain half a bottle of soy sauce. He said he likes the way the wasabi hits your nose, then disappears…Like a hit of kerosene!
I had to ask: Um, have you ever had a hit of kerosene?
No, he replied.
Till our next food adventure.
By the way, my fav. Houston spot for sushi, particularly for a nice, simple piece of salmon sashimi -- and a free scoop of green tea ice cream(!) -- is the understated Osaka in Montrose.
Monday, March 19, 2007
it's another sunday night out and about after attending the san francisco jazz festival featuring the dave holland quintet. myself, janel and ellie are once again looking around for dinner. herbst theater which hosted the concert sits on the edge of hayes valley, a gentrified neighborhood with urbanite restaurants and shops. at last year's sfjazz festival, janel and i passed by a german restaurant called suppenkuche at the corner of hayes and laguna street. back then, we passed it up for pizza. this time, we walked in.
the darkly light interior has simple pine tables, chairs and benches. dining parties will be seated with other parties at a table. there's a subtle butterfly theme around the ceiling and walls. there's a bar in the back with its own tiny seating spot. in the far back, there's a room but i didn't explode that.
looking at the menu, you clearly can see it's german -- pork, sausages, beef and lots of meat. there's also a daily special of more meat. we couldn't decided. both ellie and i were thinking maybe sausages but we had a bbq picnic the previous day. eventually we closed the menu and decided. i ordered the venison even though i was eying the trout. janel who is vegetarian ordered potato pancakes. ellie ordered the flat steaks. for drinks we all had german white beer mixed with soda -- berliner weisse with raspberry or woodruff. with woodruff, the beer looks green and commonly drank as the green beer on saint patrick's day. as we waited for our food and drinks, we were given flax bread with some kind of herb butter (we could figure out the herbs).
the beers arrive. the beer were light tasting and similar to a lambic. honestly, you don't even notice the beer. raspberry is definitely raspberry while the woodruff is slightly sweet and well, woodruff. it's hard to describe woodruff which you just have to taste. i preferred the woodruff vs. the raspberry. lemonade or lemon juice is another flavor used with berliner weisse.
finally, our food arrives. and wow, big portions. janel's plate had three large harsh brown patties with a side of apple sauce. ellie's came with a flat steak stretching across her large oval plate with a side cucumber salad. while my dish arrived with three medallion cuts of the venison, a side of plum wine sauce, red cabbage and spatzle. spatzle was described as gnoochi but it's not. it's more like pan-fried crumbled egg noodles. the venison was tender and medium cooked. i never had venison but it's very lean and virtually had no fat on this cut of meat. the red cabbage was sweet. janel's pancakes were like... hash browns. they're simple but tasty. and makes a great brunch item. ellie's medium rare steak was also tender and surprisingly sweet.
the service was B+. the waiter was friendly and somewhat knowledgeable. he did screw up our drinks order. we wanted two woodruff and a raspberry but got that reversed. the food arrived in about 10 - 15 minutes. the only thing that bugged me was our seating location. we sat right next to the entrance. i think the girls were ok but my back was freezing. i was literally sitting a yard away from the door where the chilly sunday night wind blows through. overall the experience was great. i definitely have to go back and try the sausage/mash potato dish and the potato pancakes.
me @ park chalet with the menu and the beers
Originally uploaded by Eri•chan. Photo by Janel.
ahh... saint patrick's day, how a saint is celebrated with drinking. that saturday my friends janel and ellie (including my self) had a picnic in golden gate park. but i'm not writing about the picnic (fresh salmon burgers, sausages, lambic beer and much much more).
after the picnic, we walked around the park toward the ocean where beach chalet resides. we went in for some coffee and tea but somehow got enticed by the menu. the building houses two chalets -- beach chalet and park chalet. beach is the more formal dining (although there's nothing formal about it) with a beautiful view of the ocean while park chalet has smaller dishes, a fuller bar, fireplace and a bunch of patio chairs in the park. since the day was cloudy and misty, we decided to sit by the fire to warm up.
the chalets brew their own beer and offers a sample of their six regulars -- VFW light, west end wheat, playland pale ale, presidio IPA, riptide red ale and fleishhacker stout. sadly their brewer's special isn't part of the sample. we ordered three with a plate of beer beard and string onion (think fried strands of onions).
VFW light: this is much lighter than i expected from microbrew. it tasted lighter than say, bud light. however the taste is much better. "light" crisp with a follow-up of hoppy wheat. a quick refreshing brew. one of my favorites.
west end wheat: a cloudy hefeweizen that surprisingly tasted like the VFW but wheatier and malty. again, it's a quick drink.
playland pale ale: a standard pale ale brew. malty, simple and mildly bitter.
presidio IPA: i'm not a huge fan of IPAs. yes, i know... all beer drinks should love IPAs but i wasn't too keen on its instant bitterness which overwhelm the flavors and lingers. both janel and i were flinching with each sip.
riptide red ale: i'm a huge fan of amber ales (fat tire, ful sail amber, etc). mild, malty, quick hops and very quick bitter finish.
fleishhacker stout: i love stout. i'm a guiness kinda guy. here's a stout that isn't trying to be guiness. it's lighter with a toasty caramel taste and a foamy head. i wouldn't say it has a smooth finish. maybe a bit bitter.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
A moment of worship for my favorite cupcake bakery's St. Patrick's Day creation: Dark chocolate cake with Baileys Original Irish Cream cheese frosting. (Slightly mushed in transit. Please pardon.)
I've been on a cupcake-and-ice-cream kick lately. OK, not lately. Just forever. So after churning a gorgeously rosy ice cream flavored with my favorite beer, Lindeman's Framboise, I Googled furiously for another recipe to try. This Vietnamese Coffee ice cream sounded promising. I skipped the sauce and nuts 'cause it seemed like overkill, I hate frying and hey, I was making this on a weeknight after work.
So after a trip to Hong Kong Market for Trung Nguyen coffee and a stroll down the bulk-bin aisles of Central Market (where I spend waaay too much money) for exactly 2 ounces of espresso-roast coffee beans, I was ready to start. The recipe worked well except I had to strain the espresso bean-infused mixture many more times than it said to, with both a sieve and several layers of cheese cloth. Perhaps I had just overzealously cracked my espresso beans with the roller. It was therapeutic and fun!
The result was lovely and -- not surprisingly -- very rich, with a distinct coffee flavor balanced by the creamy sweetness of the condensed milk. (Oh, how I love condensed milk! It's great drizzled on Maeda-En's not-too-sweet green tea ice cream.)
Vietnamese coffee ice cream:
2/3 cup (~ 2 ounces) espresso-roast coffee beans
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
one 14-ounce can condensed milk
1/2 cup brewed Trung Nguyen coffee
8 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Seal coffee beans in a Ziploc bag. Use a rolling pin to lightly crush beans (do not grind!).
In a large heavy saucepan, combine the crushed beans, milk, cream and sweetened condensed milk. Bring to just under a boil over medium heat.
Remove the pan from heat, cover and allow the mixture to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain the infusion through a cheese cloth-lined fine sieve into a large bowl. Rinse out the saucepan and return the milk-cream mixture to the saucepan. Add the brewed coffee. Bring to just under a boil over medium heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the yolks and salt until blended.
Whisking constantly, gradually add about half the hot milk-cream mixture to the yolks, then pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon.
Immediately strain the custard through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool, stirring occasionally. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight, to allow the flavors to develop.
Pour the chilled custard into the container of an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Scrape ice cream into a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Monday, March 12, 2007
Dean & Britta, Back Numbers
The married couple and former bandmates of Luna, Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips creates an intimate space with their atmospheric guitar, melodic and swirling keyboards and gentle voices (phillips' sultry; dean's haunting). the music is a modern revision of '60s-inspired indie pop. This music is perfect for those beautiful spring/summer weekends where you would dine a little earlier to enjoy the afternoon sun on the patio. Or background music for breakfast in bed on those lazy Sundays. Some great tracks off the album, "Words You Used to Say," "You Turned My Head Around," "Say Goodbye," and "The Sun is Still Sunny."
more info: http://www.deanandbritta.com/
Saturday, March 10, 2007
if you click the menu image, you'll see the items we ordered.
Drinks. i ordered a sazerac (rye whiskey and "five dashes of voodoo") which the waitress said was really strong (it was not and she never found out what kind of rye whiskey was used... didn't taste "top shelf"). i did not try the others' drinks -- a negroni and a blood orange cosmo. they were all pinkish in color including my own (sigh). i don't remember the bottle of wine we had midway. their small selection were mainly italian.
Main. all seven dishes arrived at the same time. my favorite was the smoked salmon bruscheetta. i like the horseradish kick. the baccala was plain but please note i really like cod. i think i'm gratin out. it seems like a huge food trend now to have a gratin something. or perhaps i believe that cheese and seafood don't really go together, especially something like lobster (it's a common place for chinese restaurants to do gratin oysters or lobsters). cheese just overwhelms the mild oily flavors of cod. however the gratin mussels however was not overwhelmed by the cheese. it was fairly good. so what made it different? maybe it's the puttanesca sauce. the grilled yellow tail was yummy. moist and sweet. i swear the green salsa verde on it was cilantro but it's actually artichoke. the grilled sardines was a surprise, tasting more like mackerel. the cioppino which was the night's special (not printed but on the chalkboard) was simple. instead of having every single seafood item in it... it had simply shrimp and mussels. the american italian cruise was tomato-ey and refreshing verus the creamy french bouillabaisse.
Desserts. we ordered two -- a chocolate ricotta pudding and a bread pudding. the bread pudding was nice and crunchy although no as good as ruggles. however the star of the desserts was the ricotta pudding. the ricotta was deep and rich in chocolate, surrounded by blackberries. i wish i could go into detail about the desserts but dining with three women… i barely manage to get a bite.
the night ended with only the four of us sitting around chatting until pesce closed (or they wanted to close. you can see the waitress and the manager sitting behind the bar bored and mumbling to themselves). so would i go back? yes for it's fresh (although small) seafood plates. next time i have to try their lamb shank and squid ink risotto.
for dishes from the evening, click over to this photo set at flickr.