Monday, December 29, 2008

Hella Challah

I had a hankerin' to make bread, so I did ... for Christmas.

Ho ho ho.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Korean Seafood Pancake

A gal cannot live on steak alone, and to be honest, I only ever hoover a NY strip when I'm visiting my red meat-loving folks. The rest of the time, I'm thrilled to munch on something like the above: haemul pajeon, aka a seafood-scallion egg-and-flour pancake dipped in a chile pepper- and sesame seed-studded soy sauce. Of course, we usually order pajeon as an appetizer that leads into, you guessed it, Korean BBQ ... Ah well, what can I say? Koreans love their meat.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Moo ... Steaks

Mmmm, steak good ... marinated NY strip steak really really good ... compliments of master griller Pop.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Spicy Food, Spicy Friends (and Fathers)

There's dad asking me why in the heck do I always have to take pictures of him when he's trying to eat his food in peace. And I said, because. Because I want to have him in this gol'darn blog. Because it's not just about the good eats, but the good folk with whom I'm noshing, chowing down, pigging out, inhaling everything ... in ... front ... of ... me.

In this particular instance, ma made bibim-naengmyon with strips of kimchi and NY steak flavoring the sweetly spicy, sesame oil-spiked chili sauce. I can't remember the last time I've had this addictive noodle dish—it's been years.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Thanksgiving Blowout 2008

Go big or go home is my mom's unspoken motto when it comes to picking out a turkey for Thanksgiving. Up above there is an 18-pounder—modestly sized, according to ma, who has consistently gone for the 20-plus pounder when shopping for her butterball of choice. Mind you, no one would blink an eye were she feeding a small army of 10 or 12 or 16, but for a gathering numbering in the 4 to 6 range, all this flesh can be a bit excessive. Ah well, next year, she promises to pick out a petite bird. Wait and see ...

Nevertheless, I gotta say this year's big fat turkey-with-all-the-fixins day was extra-special fab.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Remembering Maverick

Last night, I insisted we try the pork belly at The Alembic, because the last time I had it, it was outstanding—crisper-than-crisp on top and oozingly delicious beneath. But this time 'round, the kitchen hadn't quite pulled it off—if they'd just cooked it off a tiny tad more, it woulda been perfect. Then I remembered another pork belly I'd had that was absolutely divine. Maverick's especially handsome, melt-in-your-mouth morsel of piggy goodness, crowned with sweet slivers of nectarines.

In fact, most of what Maverick had to offer made for a really good meal, like the Baltimore crab puffs with a spicy remoulade; the super saucy and creamy mac n' cheese; fall-off-the-bone braised short ribs; spicy grilled duck breast; and my fave, the buttermilk-soaked Rocky Jr. free-range Southern fried chicken (the best fried poulet I've had in years). I think (OK, I know) I got a bunch of brownie points from Mr. & Mrs. H for having made the rezzies at this "American Eatery & Wine Bar." Note to self: Semi-fancified American comfort food is exactly what Mrs. H wants when it comes to celebrating her birthday.

Hello, lover ...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Viva Aziza

I'd heard (way) out-of-way Aziza was good, but I had no idea. The fun and festive resto marries the best of Moroccan cooking with California's fresh, local ingredients. Perfect for JP's birthday. A good thing there were four of us, so that we could have our fill of a lot of different things. The only low note? The strange and sometimes awful medley of desserts we'd ordered.

Back to the main attraction ...

We started in on some tasty spreads including velvety eggplant, piquillo-almond, and yogurt-dill along with a salad of super tender rings of squid, shredded cabbage, micro-greens, chili, sour leaf, and a generous dose of lime.

Then it was on to the beef riblets with pickled onion and a chiff of mint plus the generously portioned and fragrant saffron chicken and spiced almond basteeya—basically the Moroccan version of chicken pot pie using phyllo dough, subtly sweetened with sugar and cinnamon.

Whoa nellie. Loved Aziza's hefty fall-off-the-bone lamb shank paired with barley, prune, and cranberry, with a pinch of fresh scallion on top.

We were also pleased as punch with the moist medallions of paprika-spiked rabbit with baby carrots, parsnips, dried cherries and a fluffy mound of mashies.

Bringing up the rear were the perfectly grilled scallops with corn, cauliflower, mushrooms, sultana raisins, and vadouvan (an Indian spice-mix made of cumin, fenugreek, mustard, turmeric, curry leaves, onion, garlic, and dal that made the whole dish pop with flavor).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quince Takes the Cake

With UK lead editors D&A coming to town and D being a serious hedon and foodie, I made rezzies per my boss's OK (that's him up top) at Michelin-starred Quince restaurant, ever on my short list of places to go since I got back to SF 2 years prior. Having taken the spot once occupied by the more casual, (maybe) less successful Meetinghouse, Quince has proven this slightly out-of-the-way location is far from cursed, but rather blessed with some of the finest seasonal, local fare any self-respecting food-lover will find.

We loved absolutely everything brought to our plushy velvet corner booth by our obliging fully suited—ties and all—servers: the buttery smooth baton of foie gras with wild coastal huckleberries and toasted brioche sticks, the creamy gnochetti with savory lamb ragu, the al dente pasta with eel broth and bits, and the milk-fed veal sitting atop a sweet potato sauce. D was so giddy with delight over her sweet breads and subsequent rabbit entree, that she about poured all of Thumper's jus on the table in front of us (as evidenced above left).

All in all, I'd say this is by far the best fine-dining experience I've had since coming back to SF. And the company wasn't too shabby either. Thanks, work peeps!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

From Farm to Table at Ubuntu

Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio (yep, you read it right—this is California after all) showcases garden vegetables and biodynamic produce in such a way as to satisfy even the most hardcore carnivore. No meat on the menu here, but even JW—who lives and dies by sausage and other things swine (smart lad)—loves it here. As do I.

We led off with the marcona almonds with lavender sugar and sea salt along with the fragrant pesto-marinated castelvetrano olives ...

Moved into a plate of perfectly ripened heirloom tomatoes, basil leaves, quince saba, wild fennel crackers, with a sprinkle of espelette (red pepper) and a lovely blob of creamy burrata.

Next up, the fingerling potato salad (potatoes done 3 ways—fried bits, roasted lumps and diced salad) with a super tart sauce gribiche (a mustardy mayo and hard-boiled egg emulsion), New Zealand spinach, black garlic coulis and fried capers.

Another Ubuntu goody: cauliflower—roasted, pureed, raw, "couscous"—with vadouvan spice and coriander.

We managed to squeeze in a couple of other small plates and then wound up with the luscious date cake flanked by a dollop of earl grey ice cream and roasted apples sitting in a pool of caramel.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Omakase at Sushi Sasabune

According to New York magazine: At this outpost of the famed Los Angeles and Honolulu sushi shrine, a sign reading "Today's Special—Trust Me" is the only menu option you'll get.

In other words, it's all about omakase, or the chef's tasting menu, at Sushi Sasabune and nothing else. The only thing the server asks is if you can eat everything (read: are you adventurous) or not (meaning, are you a wimp when it comes to raw seafood)?

Well, of course, we said we'd take it all. And so out came a steady stream of sea creatures, from abalone, clams of all kind, octopus, butterfish, albacore, sea urchin, salmon roe, and more.

Of the 12 or 13 courses that came our way, I'd say only 1 or 2 didn't sit well with us—I guess our milk-weaned, corn-fed palates aren't quite sophisticated enough to appreciate the chewy, fishy nature of some of the clams.

Predictably, we adored the delicate butterfish swabbed with a generous dose of teriyaki sauce—we asked for a second helping, it was that good.

And we savored the ever-so-buttery-rich sea urchin along with the slippery smooth salmon roe, tiny helpings of miso soup crammed in each and every one of them.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Han Il Kwan's Minno-Tahng

A slight pause in our regular programming for this ...

a taste of heaven.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Momofuku Noodle Pigfest

JC and DY said Momofuku was still as good as it's ever been (save for the first 12 months, when chef David Chang was still trying to figure things out), so we cabbed it on over to the East Village to promptly queue up for an hour-plus wait just for a chance to slurp up some of the super-porky ramen, one of many pork-laden dishes that Chang had hurtled into stardom for.

While we waited for our ramen to hit the countertop, we lay into the Berkshire pork belly buns, slathered up with duck sauce and a zesty dice of scallions.

Then, the ramen arrived, and I gotta admit it wasn't as good as I remembered it. A tad too salty, missing the umami high notes that Minca's thick and savory pork ramen hits (at least the last time I dropped in on a cold wintery night).

Ah well. Still a good mid-week meal, made that much better by the antics of my (nutty) friends.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I Triple-Heart Barrio Chino

I've got a thing for tacos and tequila especially at loverly LES hotspot Barrio Chino. I fell head over heels for this place when I went with a food editor friend on her recommendation five years ago (no, that's not her to the left, but my good pal JA). She'd spent many years in Mexico City, part of it running a cooking school, and gave Barrio Chino a big affirmative for authenticity. I love the food for its incredible balance of flavor and spice.

The love affair continues ...

The sweet-and-savory succulence of the chile en nogada—a smoky poblano chile stuffed with spicy ground pork and pineapples drizzled with a creamy walnut sauce—has me under its spell.

The chicken mole is also wicked good. So are the chile rellenos and of course the tacos. I've tried a bunch of stuff on Barrio's menu, and frankly it's all damn good.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Peasant is for the birds

MK's face says it best—there's something rotten in Denmark, or in this case Peasant. Of the 8 dishes we ordered, only the polpi in purgatorio (octopus, at bottom) did us right. Absolutely everything's cooked in Peasant's woodfired oven, and whoever was on the line that night, just could not get a handle on the seasoning to save his life. Too bad, since it wasn't so much the level of done-ness that we had a problem with but rather the sad blandness—and in some cases tongue-curling saltiness—in most of what we tried. Well, that does it. Strike Peasant off the list.

The pasta itself was tasty, but the sea urchin on top? Not so much.

The pork broth was nice, but the hefty, dense gnocchi got a thumbs down from MK, who's the protein cook at a 3-star Italian resto in the city.

S'more salt in both the sea bass and the suckling pig woulda been handy, so say we all.

No complaints though with the octopus. Yes we're a tough crowd (made up of cooks, a food stylist and an ex-cook), but heck, Peasant's received some pretty big raves, so it has a big reputation to live up to.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In a New York State of Mind

So I just got back from a week-plus jaunt in New York (where I actually managed to squeeze some work in between my pig-out sessions), and it was fab. Some highlights here with more to come ...

Peasant didn't deliver on the hype. No matter. The company made up for it in spades.

The pork (belly) buns were what put Momofuku and David Chang on the map. Good times.

The 9th (?) of 12 or so courses comprising omakase at Sushi Sasabune: lusciously creamy sea urchin and salmon roe tasting like miso soup.

Allen & Delancey's big plate o' meat. Bone marrow included.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spork So Good

I went to Spork last year with S and C, and shame on me for never blogging about it, because it really was fantastic. I'm afraid the deets escape me, but I think it's fair to say the pics tell the story.

Spork's fish

Spork's mussels

Spork's pasta