Monday, February 26, 2007

The Flash

This is the Flash: a vigorously shaken gin, cucumber and muddled kiwi and lime martini that brings a smile to my face every time I order it at Rye, my new fave lounge-bar in the 'Loin (look at the fruit-filled bartender's station below; tell me, how can you not love this place). Rye makes me think of my old fave bar in Manhattan, Blue Owl, which had a very similar beverage with a phenomenal $5 happy hour every day—a good thing too since its beautifully concocted drinks are normally $12 a pop. Rye's happy hour deal isn't as good, but heck, I'm not complaining about the $2 discount off its $9 cocktails. Having gotten used to the $10 and $12 prices in NYC, I'm loving that even SF's crème de la crème of the specialty cocktail scene charge an average of $8 per. Of course, the nightlife isn't as hopping as it is in Gotham, so I'm not exactly taking advantage of this fact. ... Ah well, my liver could use the break. My new mantra: fresh air, fresh food, live long(er) ... Yes? No? Some day I will believe.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

About Last Night

What about last night? Well ... a picture's worth a thousand words. Here are three that tell it all:

Lovely little lamby roasted on the barby and basted with a special South African-cum-Indian blend of spices.

Baked stuffed peppers brightened up with generous dollops of goat cheese.

Roasted Brussels sprouts, slightly sweetened with brown sugar, and given the added crunch of walnuts.

Hooray for friends who feed their friends as well as mine do.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Sugar Sweet Sunshine Be Mine

Ain't these purty? So Martha Stewart, right? A friend picked them up from the Cupcake Café for my going-away party. Truth be told, they're a little too fancy for my (everyday) liking as are the various cupcakes I've tried here in San Francisco: Miette, Kara's and Citizen Cupcake. All the pretty piping, rosettes and cream filling are just a bit over the top for me. Of course, I won't say no when my sweet craving is cranked on high, and yes, I can appreciate all the effort put into each tiny cake.

But my heart belongs to Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery, a descendent of Magnolia. I remember walking by the Rivington St. storefront in the fall of 2003, impatient for its grand opening. I've probably had easily 100 of its cuppers since then. Oh, sure, Billy's, Buttercup and even Magnolia will do in a pinch, but it's the luscious little cakes in the LES that do it for me every time.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Leftovers How I Like 'Em

During my visit with mom and pop, I felt the need to snap a quick one of some mighty delicious leftovers and other standard Korean fare: crispy roasted seaweed (김), sticky rice (밥), bean sprouts (aka kong namul, 콩나물), kimchi (김치), takwang (ok, that's really a Japanese thing, but we Koreans like these lovely, fluorescent-yellow half moons of pickled radish, too) and, the pièce de résistance, my dad's homemade pindaedok (빈대떡)—a fried mungbean pancake chock full of pork, scallions and garlic. Super simple, ready in minutes. ... It's always good to be home.

(Is it dorky that I added in the Korean monikers for each food item? Yes, but I got a kick out of finding them on wikipedia.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Love in a Box

My mom was hoppin' mad last night. I'd visited the folks for the long weekend and went into my room (aka the guest room) to pack up my bag for my return flight home, and found her trying to stuff two huge shoeboxes brimming with fresh-picked grapefruit (from the backyard) into said bag.

Oh no, I yelled. I can't lug all that fruit back with me (no matter how delicious and juicy they are). I'll take one box, and that's final.

Alright, so her feelings were hurt. But imagine having a mom who's constantly sneaking food into your suitcase—from ramen and rice cakes to frozen turkey meat and grapenuts (emphasis on nuts!)—and you'll see why turning down love in a box at least some of the time is the only way to keep the mother-daughter thing A-okay.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Gut-Buster

Punjab Kabob's "chef's special" can best be described as "The Gut-Buster." Don't get me wrong. I've been to this Tenderloin gem 4 times in the past 7 to 8 weeks because I couldn't get enough of the rich, creamy chicken tikka masala, lightly spiced cheese-laden palak paneer accompanied by basmati rice and a soft, spongey disk of naan that you're welcomed to have all to yourself. But therein lies the rub: it's a shit ton of food for one not-so-big gal whose eyes are often bigger than her stomach. On my last visit, I teetered out the door, proceeded to fall into a deep food coma as my food baby kicked and churned in mee belly well into the night. And so, I've called a month-long moratorium on Punjab. Let's see if I can stick to it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Say Cheese

What better way to say farewell to New York than to say it with cheese. For my final fancy meal, I took a trip up to Picholine with a few dear friends in tow. I'd been eyeing the three-star resto for years, having had it on my shortlist of places where I wanted to trail back when I was heading into my externship. I never did make it into the kitchen, but the dining room was fine with me.

Better than fine actually: We started out with some ever-so-delightful (and very pink) French martinis at the bar (chef Terrance Brennan actually came out for a meet-and-greet—a really nice touch to what was becoming a very fine evening). But, most important, we ended with a flight of 9 cheeses—from mild and semi-hard to oozing and super stinky (yes!)—selected by the Maître Fromager. He'd been trundling his dairy cart around all night, making the anticipation build to a slow burn by the time we were ready for him.

WOW. Sure the apps and entrees were excellent. No complaints from any of the 4 corners of our table. But it really was all about the cheese. How could it be otherwise?

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Perfect Pour

I know it's only Monday, but a beverage (just one) was in order to take the edge off what turned out to be a pretty rough day. And how.

That said, I've got a buddy who's in constant search of the perfect pour—of Guinness, that is.
The Irish Bank does a pretty fair job; House of Shields not so much (the surly bartenderette is anything but practiced at giving good head, pun intended). And so we decided to try some place new: Johnny Foley's Irish House, a cavernous wood-paneled pub on O'Farrell.

Well, you can see for yourself: Johnny got it just right. And judging by the silly grin spreading across her face, my friend thought so, too. She marked her pint with a "C," telling me a lot of Irish pubs stamp their pours with shamrocks. Good to the last drop.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Family Feast

I've finally thrown in the towel and started my own blog, after months—no, years—of friends telling me to hurry up and get started. I guess the time finally felt right; the main impetus being that my memories of cooking school and then working on the line at a NY restaurant are fading fast. All the blood, sweat and tears that went into that journey are almost forgotten, save for a tiny twinge here and there in my hands, arms and back, reminding me that I once used to haul ass in a hot kitchen up to 12 and 14 hours a day. Even though all of my close friends still identify me as a cook (and horror of horrors, a chef) and at the very least, food-obsessed, I've been feeling a bit distant from food; I guess I kinda needed a break from that relationship. But now that I've fattened up and moved back to California, I'm feeling like it's time to get back to it. Back to the bosom (of all things food).

That said, my mom and her sisters are fabulous cooks—kickass when it comes to making Korean food (well, after all, they grew up in Seoul). The feast pictured above was deeRISHous: We chowed down on perfectly seasoned, spicy kimchi jjigae, doenjang jjigae (fermented bean paste soup), oh-so-tender kalbi. My aunt also whipped up a batch of egg-battered zucchini and another of white fish, pickled cucumbers, and crab and arugula salad to accompany the meal. It was a meal to inspire and ignite my ambitions to get back into the kitchen. God, I love Korean food.