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Friday, July 30, 2010

Hello from Shanghai!

I've moved to China! I'll be writing my half of the food blog from Shanghai and near by cities for the next six months. I only was able to access Blogger today, and we (Bob and I) got here on Sunday.

We've already eaten a whole bunch of amazing real Chinese food. Every time we go out it's family style and massive quantities of food. I'm not complaining, I like food, but we're always "roll me out of the restaurant" full at the end. We've had dumplings, Chinese hot pot, Shanghainese, Chinese donuts with warm soy milk, and the list goes on.

Sadly because I typically use my phone for my camera I have not had a chance to get real pictures of our food, but I'm remedying this problem soon. I can't wait to show everyone all the yummy spicy food I'm enjoying.



Saturday, July 17, 2010

San Francisco - Absinthe (Civic Center)


So I'm a little behind.... Bob and I ate at Absinthe on Thursday night, before going to see "Young Frankenstein, The Musical" which on a side note is awesome. Anyway, I thought because we were going to a show we should do some fine dining, and so we did. I've always heard of Absinthe but I'd never been there before, and I was excited after having looked at the menu online.

We started the meal off right with some spicy fried chickpeas, they were like little tiny Indian samosas. It was a small portion but I loved the way they crunched. We shared a Melon Salad, which consisted of honeydew melon and spinach leaves covered in ricotta and crispy prosciutto. We both would have liked more prosciutto, but we made do with what we were given, the combo was pretty good.

For the main course Bob had the Chermoula-Rubbed Lamb Loin (chickpeas, Indian eggplant, Swiss chard, chili oil). I'm kind of picky when it comes to lamb, and while this was good, it wasn't something that blew me away. I've definitely had better lamb before. It was displayed
quite beautifully, as were all the dishes.

I ordered the Slow-Cooked Pork Confit (Anson Mills cheese grits, house-made bacon, collard greens, pork jus) and the cheese grits alone made my mouth water with delight. The pork was absolutely juicy and tender, falling apart while I ate it. The bacon was a little chewy, but very flavorful. Mmmmmmm.

Sadly we didn't have time for dessert, so I guess I'll have to go back. Over all though the place was pretty darn good, a bit pricey though for just an average night. I would definitely go back for a special occasion. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lauriol Plaza

Apparently, Margaret and I are now competing for most blog posts. It's quality, not quantity I say! Well, I at least have to do my part to keep up. So tonight, I joined my pal Gail who has been having a hellish week at work at Lauriol Plaza for a margarita, some Mexican food, and a chat. Lauriol never disappoints, but it fills up quickly after work. Luckily, I was "sick" today, cough cough, and left work early, so I was on a bar stool waiting at 5:15. I was flying solo for a bit and didn't want to seem like a weirdo, so I ordered a margarita to blend in. Lauriol has several flavors of margarita but you can't go wrong with the classic blended. Several people were also ordering the swirl, which is regular and strawberry mixed together. Also a good choice. So by the time Gail shows up, I'm done with the better part of my drink and feeling quite chatty. So we asked for a table and went up to the rooftop bar.

It was nice on the roof for, oh, about 30 seconds and then it began to rain. Although we had a roof, the sides were open and the rain started coming in, but I just thought, oh screw it, let’s drink, errr, eat. We started with the obligatory chips and salsa. Here’s where I’ve got serious beef with Lauriol and its sister restaurant Cactus Cantina. Their salsa sucks. I mean, it’s horrible. I have a very low bar for judging salsa, I’ll even eat Old El Paso and relish it. I don’t know what they are doing to this stuff. It’s watery and drips off the chips onto the table, onto the menu, and onto your shirt. I can’t figure out what’s in it. I think they grill the veggies before pureeing them. I eat it every time hoping it’s good, but I’m always underwhelmed. And underwhelmed is being generous. Anyway, their chips are fantastic—housemade, light crispy and warm. They are great on their own or with some of the house guacamole which is also fresh and worth the $5.50 they charge you for a small bowl of it.

The salsa is really my only complaint. Usually when I go with other friends we have a routine. We split the beef fajitas and an order of tamales, but today I had to branch out. I went with the Cantina Superior combination which came with tacos carbon, a cheese chili relleno, a chicken enchilada, and a chicken tamale. Yes, it is a lot of food, and no, I am not ashamed. I like variety, and why not sample all they have. How was it?

Well, the tacos carbon was amazing. It’s the same high quality ribeye they use in their fajitas just rolled up in one of the freshly made flour tortillas. I’ve heard that they won’t serve the tortillas if it’s been more than six minutes after they came out of the oven. I’d believe it as they are delicious little fluffy pillows that gently caress your meat. Or something like that. The chicken tamale was just ok, especially considering how great the pork tamale is. Then again, pork is always better than chicken. The chicken enchilada was great with ample chicken spilling out and a tangy red sauce over the top. I’m not a huge fan of chili relleno. I want to love it. I mean, what’s not to like. Cheese, chili pepper, onions, all battered and fried with more cheese over the top? How can that be bad? Well, I usually find the batter has gotten soggy and falls off and the cheese is overwhelming. It wasn’t bad but I won’t be writing home about it. All in all, it was a satisfying plate and there was probably half of it left by the time I could no longer breathe with my pants still buttoned.

On a completely different subject, I’m working on a brunch idea. I’ve got something cooking. Basically a friend and I are trying to trick a (straight) male friend into joining us for brunch. Little does he know this brunch will be at Perry’s, which is known for its drag queen brunch. I think it will be a nice surprise for him. This is in addition to next week’s drag queen bingo which we are billing as trivia night. Hey, I’m just trying to open minds and expand horizons, and if I can throw some food into the mix, even better!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

San Francisco - Sapporo-Ya (Japan Town)


Today I was over in Japan Town with a hankering for ramen noodles. My experience in Japan Town is fairly limited because it's not really next to anything else, just lots of housing. Anyway, Bob and I headed into the strip mall that Japan Town is made of, and had lunch at Sapporo-Ya. I'd never been there before but Bob said the ramen was pretty good, and I wanted something spicy and noodlie.
We both ordered the Kimchi Ramen which had spinach, onion, bamboo shoots, kimchi, fried egg and pork in in a miso-esque broth. As I'm not much of a pork in my ramen kind of girl, I gave the pork to Bob. I did try the pork, it was okay, nothing too exciting about it. The kimchi on the other hand was wonderful! It was tangey and spicy with a little bit of crunch like it was added at just the last minute to the noodles. The bamboo shoots also had a bite, which I really like because no one wants limp bamboo shoots in their soup, well at least I don't.

The servings were the typical massive size to the point where I was only able to eat half of mine. Next time I'll know to bring a friend to share with. We also had green tea to go with the meal, which seemed to be typical green tea.

The place was pretty roomie, and there were plenty of other diners while we were there. The place does sushi too, but I'll have to try that another time. The staff were nice and quick to refill my water glass. Overall, I think I could go back, I'd love to try the gyoza. :)M

Monday, July 12, 2010

San Francisco - Pica Pica (In The Mission)

Pica Pica

Mmmm Pica Pica, is exactly what I love after a long day, it's melt in your mouth amazing. Tonight Bob (my husband) and I met up with our friends Matthew, Jenn, Alex and Regan for some delicious latin sandwiches. We all live in the Mission and the friends had never eaten at this wonderful place, so we had to remedy this problem.

This place specializes in latin sandwiches, what is this you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked, because this is how it works:
1- you pick one of three different kinds of breads - arepas(grilled corn flour cake), cachapas (sweet corn pancake) or maize'wich (sweet corn cake)

2- You pick one of the fabulous combos of fillings Pica Pica has to offer. My personal favorite combo is the cachapa pabellon (shredded skirt steak, sweet plantains, black beans and cheese). It's not too spicy but has a nice kick to it.

3- Pair your choice of sandwich with some yuka fries and the spicy pica pun dipping sauce and you're good to go!

And while it's not necessary, I always like to order the coconut lemonade. It's like slurpee goodness times a million.

The food is really good, but kind of messy, which is why I order mine cachapas style. I like to eat the sandwich with a knife and fork. The maize'wich is pretty much the same thing, but more like the size of an english muffin and you need to pick it up to eat it.

The restaurant itself is one where you stand in line and order your food, and receive a number for your table. There's very limited space for seating so if you're hungry during the rush hour time, I'd suggest ordering ahead and picking the food up to go.

Right after this place opened Bob and I liked it so much we ate there three times in one week!

My new love of almond crunch

I think I just got myself involved in something I can't get out of. I have an addiction and I can get the junk any time I want. What is this junk you ask?

So yesterday when I was making my fancy pants dinner, I was trying to figure out what to do for dessert. I don't really bake, mostly because I don't have the patience or the counter space/appliances to bake pastries. So I needed something easy. I had just bought some gorgeous peaches from the farmers market and figured since I was grilling my summer squash and yellow tomatoes I could also throw the peaches on the grill. So I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon on those babies and put them on the grill for a few minutes.

Well, what fun would a few peaches be? Where I come from you need a little fat with your fruit. I've been on an almond kick lately. Raw almond, skinless almonds, almond milk, I've got it all in the cupboards. So I thought toasting some almonds with a bit of cinnamon, all spice, and brown sugar would make a good topping for the peaches. I baked those in the oven for a few minutes, careful not to let the nuts burn, and then ground them up in the food processor. Um, basically I had coarse almond powder so I cut in a little bit of butter to keep it all together.

Then I just threw the "crunch" on top of the peaches and tossed them in the oven under the broiler. I can't even tell you the smells that were wafting through my kitchen. I was in hurry to get to the couch to watch True Blood with the roommate, so I plopped a little bit of vanilla ice cream on top of the peaches and settled in for some Vampire Eric hotness. First not the vampers, but the baked peaches. It tasted so much like my grandma's peach cobbler but minus the carby pastry topping. The best part about the whole thing was the way the sweet almond mixture mixed in with the ice cream. I was pretty impressed with myself.

So this afternoon I get a text from my roommate, "I need peaches, almond crunch and ice cream. Every day not spent in the gym must be spent eating fatty food!" Well, I had to oblige. But we decided to forgo the fruit and just went with the almond topping over ice cream. I gotta say, the batch today was even better than yesterday. I knew I'd done something right when I heard my roommate yell "Jesus!" as he went up the stairs with his bowl of ice cream. I haven't seen him in a while. I'm afraid of what could be going on up there....

Oegadgib (Don't ask me how to say it) Korean BBQ

On Saturday, I was terribly hung over and in need of something substantial to cure what ailed me. I convinced a friend to let me introduce him to Korean food so we drove out to Annandale for lunch. Annandale is basically the Koreatown here in the DC metro area and there are Korean restaurants, groceries, noraebangs (karaoke rooms), and shops. I love Korean food but it's a bit of a drive for me and I loathe the Virginia suburbs, so seldom do I get out there. Anyway, when you arrive at Oegadgib, don't be deterred by the surroundings. An observant person might notice that there's a veterinary clinic right next door and a meat market in front of the restaurant. I'm just saying...

Well, once you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by the smell of grilling meat, garlic, and chilis. Here comes the first challenge. I'm not convinced the waitstaff speak English. If you've never had Korean food, you might have a challenge here, but if you are up for an adventure you'll be fine. The menu is in English and Korean, but sometimes it doesn't really explain what you are ordering. We did the point and nod thing and made sure to smile and be polite and everything worked out. Your best bet is to order the all-you-can-eat bbq. For $16.99 you get a plate with three meats--two cuts of beef and pork belly. In addition to the meat, you get an endless supply of banchan, which are the various side dishes commonly served in Korean restaurants. There was the typical cabbage kimchee, bean sprouts, spinach, sliced radishes, some chewy little things that looked like translucent crinkle cut fries but were probably made with seaweed, and of course we had two soups.

The doenjjang jigae, or fermented soy bean stew, was perfect. Pungent, spicy, piping hot and filled with big chunks of tofu and a hearty serving of potatoes and zucchini. My friend was scared of the egg soufflĂ© but his fears were quickly allayed after he had a taste. Well, first he burned himself on the steaming fluffy egg mixture, but then he fell in love. What do they put in there? It seems like only egg but there’s got to be something else to make it taste so good.

On to the meats…. I’m a big fan of samgyupsal, or pork belly. But this time it seemed like the cut was too thick. The meat took forever to cook and was tough and chewy. We left a few slices of that on the plate. The best had to be the thinly sliced beef. Dip it in a little bit of the pepper sauce for a sweet and spicy kick or the sesame oil dip if you like salty and earthy flavors. For me, it was all about the gochujjang (pepper sauce). Although this place is all you can eat, with only two of us we were struggling to get through the original plate they served us. But we are troopers, and southern to boot, so there would be no wasted food! We polished off the meat, most of the soup and egg soufflĂ©, and the better part of all the side dishes. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, but 10 hours later when the taste of garlic still lingered in every breath I took and I couldn’t even think of having dinner, I realized maybe I shouldn’t have eaten a pound of meat and several raw garlic cloves. It did, however, go a long way to curing my hangover.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

San Francisco - Harvey's (In the Castro)


Yummmy, Harvey's is always delicious, but I really like it for brunch. There's nothing better than a couple of spicy bloody marys and a great breakfast or lunch. My husband and I went for brunch with our friends Jay and Staci. We went for a late brunch....1pm, I have issues waking up early on the weekends. Anyway, we only had a 15 minute wait, and it was a beautiful day, so it wasn't bad. The place is usually packed at 10am and noon, so we got there as the main crowd was dissipating.

(Harvey's is named for Harvey Milk, a notable San Francisco politician in the 1960's, who helped bring about the LGBT rights in California. )

I had the Nacho Breakfast Skillet, YUM! Homefries cooked with bacon, ham, sausage and cheese with 2 eggs over easy on top with beans and salsa. It was way too much just for me, but I attacked it with ferocity. It came with a couple of fruit pieces and an english muffin.

Harvey's has an excellent selection of various concoctions of Bloody Mary. I had the "Bloody Mary Tyler Moore" mmmm, extra spicy AND they gave me five olive, and let me tell you, I love olives and spice. Some of the bloody marys are made with vodka, others are made with tequila. My husband had the Bloody Mary Lou Retton.

My husband had the Buffalo Chicken Salad, which in my opinion is amazing, mostly because I like a little salad with my dressing. He thought there was too much dressing, but blue cheese is great no matter how much you have. The chicken in the salad comes in a delicious and spicy wings sauce.

Staci, had the Mecca Scramble, which looked good, and must have been because she cleaned her plate. The scramble had peppers, tomatoes, onions, spinach and feta. And she sampled the mimosas and was quite pleased.

In other words, if you're looking for a place with great drinks, and filling food this is a great place to start your day.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Coming Soon!

As you can see, we're just getting started. Holly and I (Margaret) talked about starting a food blog for a long time. Yes, we know there are lots of food blogs out there, so this is more of a hobby, because we love to eat, and we like taking pictures of good food.

Holly will be posting from the East Coast with all the wonderful places she visits. And Margaret will be posting from the West Coast and then Shanghai. So there's going to be a little bit of everything for everyone.

Feel free to send notes of places we should check out, because we always like to find new watering holes. :)M