Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Post 31: Six Taste Food Tours - Delicious Dumpling

Another weekend... another tour!

I truly enjoy meeting the guests on my food tours every weekend.  Guests have different backgrounds, similar interests, and hail from all parts of the country.  I've had guests attend the tour who live within walking distance (right behind Din Tai Fung) and as far away as Hawaii and New York.

This weekend a hip mom and her cool kid came on the Delicious Dumpling tour in Arcadia.  It turns out this hip mom is an avid blogger.  What's hip mom's blogging alias? Black Belt Momma! And yes, she happened to be wearing a very chic black belt at the time.

You can read her blog entry about the tour here.

Karen and Ryan, thank you again for coming on the tour.  Hope to see you on another tour soon!

ML - 20100824

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Post 30.2: San Francisco - Smorgasbord

Ahhh... to finish off the grubbin' in San Francisco, I've compiled a smorgasbord of all the remaining meals here and meals there into one post.  Meals such as dim sum didn't make it here because our stomachs were too hungry to wait for the picture-taking process.  Similar to my flashback of May 2009, here's a look at the weekend's smorgasbord in San Francisco:

Late-night grub @ Playground (SF: Japantown)

Playground is a Korean restaurant in the middle of Japantown.  Why it's there? I'm not quite sure.  But what I am sure about is that this restaurant-turned-bar/karaoke-house at night serves some damn good haemul pajeon.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Ohhhh... haemul pajeon, you are my faaavorite.

Add some OB or Hite into the mix, and I'm one happy camper.  There's nothing like grilled meat (we had some kalbi too), fried carbs, and spicy food (we had some dukbukgi too) to pair with beer on a late Friday night.  Nothing.

Afternoon snack @ Stelladoro (SF: Western Addition/NOPA)

After a romp around Haight & Ashbury for piercings and tattoos, we ventured down Divisadero St. to look for more piercing and tattoos.  And since piercing and tattoos aren't really for me, I went to look for something to munch on while the posse pondered about the proportions of their proposed permanent body paint.  Eek. 

Luckily, I found Stelladoro, a Chinese-owned pizza hole-in-the-wall, hidden in the midst of multi-colored (like purple, turquoise and pink) hippie houses and tattoo parlors.  Even luckier for me... a slice of pizza was about $2, and it was amazing-delicious.  Only in San Francisco would a Chinese man open a pizza shop, have good pizza, and have the shop continue standing through the years.  This perfect-size portion of pizza held me over until dinner.  Score.

Brunch @ Cafe Divine (SF: North Beach)

Sunday morning means Sunday brunch, so I suggested that we all meander down the Mason St. hill to one of my favorite spots to eat and peoplewatch.  Even if you aren't sitting on the patio (AKA the sidewalk), the large, square windows at the restaurant allow the bright sunshine to shine in, which means that peoplewatching is a piece of cake here.  (I've never encountered a foggy moment here).

Breakfast here never disappoints.  The quiches are good; their egg scrambles are the best.  Alex mentioned that he wished that they used smoked salmon rather than the cooked salmon in their Bennies from Heaven (eggs benedict).  I agree.  But no matter.  The water is served in wine bottles, and that is pretty cool.

Dessert @ Cavalli Cafe (SF: North Beach)

I was first introduced to Cavalli Cafe last summer when Connie made a pit-stop here for some free wi-fi.  While she plopped her laptop down and set up shop, the shopkeeper introduced me to Cavalli's tiramisu.  (He says he makes it himself everyday.)  My heart melted when I met the square block of sweet desset.  Well, hello, tiramisu, hello.

Ever since my first bite of that decadent dessert, I've had it on my mind.  And on my cell phone.  I've chosen it to be the screensaver on my cell phone just to remind me of the introduction to Italian incredibleness from just over a year ago.  Constantly seeing that slice of tiramisu on my cell means I can easily text the kids in SF with, "I want tiramisu from that place on Columbus next to BOAAAAA... NOOWWW..."

The layers are so light and airy that if you take a sniff close enough to the tiramisu, some of that dusty cocoa powder may just fly up into your nose. Wow, what heavenly crack. And the first layer of marscarpone is so creamy that... as your fork presses into the slice, you're tempted just to give the marscarpone a little swirl as you pick it up. Yesssss. Just because you can.  And the lady fingers... oh, the lady fingers.  What lady fingers? Too late.  All gone.  Mmmmm...

Fuck cannoli.  This tiramisu blows other desserts out of the water.

Playground, Divine, and Cavalli are all fast-becoming my regular places.  Or... as regular as I can be if I live in southern California.  But if I'm in SF, you'd better bet that at some point during my trip, I'm going to be at any one of these places.

I'm going on writing hiatus until my trip to New York over Labor Day weekend.  Keep cool in the summer heat.  And until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20100825/20100723-25

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Post 29: Yummy Yummy Is Yummy Yummy (SF: Inner Sunset)

When I told Janet about my plans to visit the Bay Area, she wanted to take me to her favorite Vietnamese restaurant in town.  Scratch that.  She wanted to take me to her favorite restaurant in town.  It just happens to be Vietnamese.  She messaged me and said that I HAD TO try it.  And yes, it was in ALL CAPS.

So as the last meal before I left (my heart in) San Francisco, we stopped by Yummy Yummy in the Sunset District, where the Asian food is still authentic and hasn't yet been toursited out like it has been in other parts of town (namely, Chinatown).

Janet took charge of the menu and showed us some of her favorites:

Raw beef salad.  The paper-thin slices of beef (from which part I have no idea) looked just a bit like hot pot beef from the yellow styrofoam tray at 99 Ranch.  But the basil, onions (both fried and raw), and peanuts helped disguise it. 

Rare steak? Not a problem.  Raw beef? Eeek.  I squeezed a good amount of lemon on the beef hoping that the acid would cook the beef fast enough so it didn't look so red.  But as the second hand on my watch ticked away and as Janet, Grace and Alex ate away, I decided to suck it up and just inhale it.  Look, I'm still here.  Blogging, no less.  Ergo, the raw beef salad is safe.  Oh, and I forgot to mention... it was bomb diggity delicious.  A punch from the peanuts, a bite frm the basil, and a kick from the onions made the raw beef salad somethin' spectacular.  I was ready for another roll of beef.

Fish sauce marinated butter fried chicken wings.  Like whoa.  These little deep-fried wings and drumettes come out with fish sauce, strands of raw onions and carrots, and pieces of raw garlic poured over the top.  This item is not on the menu (just yet) and was suggested (more like pushed) to us by the boss.  (Janet, Grace and others on Yelp think that it's Yummy Yummy's counter to the amazing-delicious chicken wings from San Tung next door.)

The sauce over the top makes for the kind of crispy batter that begins to soften as time goes on, so eating quickly is a necessity.  The only problem is that the chicken wings are fried to a point so hot that my fingers felt a bit smoldered just from the steaming heat.  Damn.  Catch 22.  It's like trying to eat the most delicious ice cream cone outdoors in the hot summer heat.  It's panic trying to get through the entire cone before it melts, but it's pleasure with every successful bite.

Crab with spicy onion seasoning.  What it really should be called is crab with spicy onion, garlic, pepper, green onion, ginger, everything seasoning.  That's what it is, and that's what it tastes like.  It's a fresh whole crab in all its glory.  Although I'm a little sad that this crab had to die for this meal, I'm glad knowing that the crab died to make four hungry people happy. 

Everyone gets their own shell cracking tool, which is great because otherwise, we'd never be able to get inside to experience the pillow-soft sinews of the martyred crustacean.  And I'm not joking about the crab meat being pillow-soft.  If seafood stink and sanitation weren't such major factors, I'd take the sinews of the crab and stuff me a pillow! What a wonderful night's sleep I'd get... but seafood stink and sanitation are major factors, so... crab pillow I shall not make.

Spicy beef pho.  This pho wasn't your typical pho from ordinary Vietnamese restaurants.  The beef was sliced thicker... the soup had a spicy kick... and if you couldn't tell already, the color was a boiling red.  Oooh.  But the additions were the same as any: bean sprouts, basil leaves, citrus squeeze (lemon instead of lime here), and green chili peppers.

We ordered the pho with thicker, white flour noodles as opposed to the traditional thinner, clear rice noodles.  They were just as springy and elastic as expected from the typical pho noodle.  The best part? The soup, of course.  I didn't feel like I was slurping up an MSG-infested, sinkwater-colored bowl of denatured enzymatic proteins.  This... was just simply Vietnamese beef noodle soup.  I like.

Hear that Janet? I like.  Thanks, Janetabulous for introducing me to this Yummy Yummy-ness.  Next door to San Tung next time?

Until then, let's get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20100817/20100725

Monday, August 16, 2010

Post 28: First Time with Afghan (SF: Russian Hill/Nob Hill)

I slapped myself out of my low tide of culinary inspiration.  My inspiration is back.  Or... perhaps I'm just craving Afghan food, and I'm craving it enough to post about it.

My first experience with Afghan food was a couple of months ago when my manager (born in Afghanistan, raised in USA) brought some of her mom's homemade fare to the office for the team.  Although our team consists of just five people, there was enough food to feed the entire corner of our office.  (Uh... it's a pretty big corner.)

I had no clue what I was eating, but I know good food when I see it.  And logic tells me that if an Afghan mother (or any mother for that matter) is confident enough and proud enough to prepare party-sized trays of her own home-cooked deliciosities, then gosh darnit, that stuff has got to be good.

A look at what Marya brought in:

Homemade qabalee.  Qabalee is a combination of pallow rice, raisins, carrots, and meat buried within.  Pallow rice is rice that has been baked after having been tossed in syrup made with carmelized sugar.  Zeera, or cumin seeds, helps perk up the rice.  There's nothing that can come between me and the Japanese, short-grain sticky rice that I've grown up with, but I welcome long-grain rice from other cultures whole-heartedly.  Pallow rice, I welcome you into my life with arms wide open.

Shola.  Contained within the puffy rice is lamb and finely minced vegetables such as onions and celery.  At first glance this dish looks a bit like oatmeal, and the color doesn't do the flavor the least bit of justice.  If you judge this book by its cover, you're definitely gonna miss out.  It's sweet, but it's got spices.  It's soft, but it's not mushy.  It looks bland, but oh lord, it's full of flavor.  I just can't get over how the oil and juices from the meat seep from below... almost like hot lava bubbling up from a volcano, ready-to-burst... and how every other bite of the engorged sticky rice has a surprise of lamb.  Oh sweet heavens, this stuff is good.

Beef qorma.  These chunks of beef have been stewed with onions, garlic, ground coriander, crushed tomatoes, and cauliflower.  It complements the qabalee and the shola really well.  With the qabalee, the gravy (the qorma part of it) helps give the rice an extra hand in spice, but I discovered that this beef deliciousness really shines on a bed of the shola.  Because the shola is so thick, the gravy has nowhere to escape; the shola can enclose the meat and its gravy within its congealed grains.  Your mouth gets nothin' but flavor.  Perrrrfect.

Many thanks to Mrs. Hameed for introducing a new cuisine to all of us in the office.  Marya, you've got one mean-cookin' mama!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Post 27: Losing My Mind

I'm going just a little bit crazy.  I can't pinpoint where this feeling of going crazy stems from exactly.  It could be any number of things.

It could be that my diet today consisted of a Subway footlong (split with my grandma) and frozen Chinese dumplings from 99 Ranch (eaten alone).  Oh, and one measly little xiaolongbao that I had during my tour at Din Tai Fung today.

It also could be that half of the tour guests walked off without leave tips.  I swung it out of the ballpark last week.  What did I do wrong this week? And even if I sucked at being a tour guide (which I know I do not), they could leave a tip because the Din Tai Fung xiaolongbao made them happy, right? Food service industry peeps, I feel ya.

Revelation.  Maybe I don't mind the tips part as much as I mind that I just spent $400 to fix my broken windshield (and that my tips were supposed to help cover this payment.)  Oh, the hazards of driving 100+ miles a day to/from work on the 101-134-210... Damn you, LA freeways.  Damn you and your random flying debris.

Wait.  Or... it could be that I'm reading all the posts from The Girl Who Ate Everything... starting with her first few posts from November 2004.  This girl's slight insanity (I would like to meet this girl one day) is fun to read, but I honestly think it's getting to my head.  I feel a little twitch in my neck right now.

I went to a coffee shop today to blog about my first experience with Afghan food when I visited San Francisco last month... the internet shut down five minutes after I arrived.  Even if the internet had been working, I don't think I could get myself to write about the delicious Afghan food after losing inspiration from my Subway footlong half.  Get Jared and the $5 footlong jingle outta my head, please.  Noooow.

Gah.  I'm losing my mind.  Help me.  I need haemul pajeonFoie grasUni.  Pork belly and kimchi.  Hell, bring on the cabeza tacos.  Even a freakin' bowl of ramen sounds good right now. 

In-n-Out? Will this help? It'll have to do for now.  I will not let Subway footlong and frozen dumplings be the day's menu.  BABY I LIKE IT.  Enrique, get the hell out.

ML - 20100814

Thursday, August 12, 2010

F.A.T. News 1: Guy Fieri, Airline MPG

Here are two interesting F.A.T. (food and travel) articles that I read in the news this morning...

He'd be my choice for coolest uncle:
Guy Fieri, Chef-Dude, Is in the House
article by Julia Moskin, NY Times

Waiting for the day Boeing makes a Hybrid 797:
A Prius With Wings vs. a Guzzler in the Clouds
article by Scott McCartney, Wall Street Journal

Let me know what you think.

ML - 20100812