Saturday, May 31, 2008

Good Chow at Park Chow

MB blew threw town on a biz trip and for the few hours we had to catch up, we decided to swing up to Park Chow for a bite to eat. After making quick work of a small cheesy pizza, we attacked the bubbling and oozingly sweet-tart strawberry-rhubarb crisp smothered in whipped cream.

A generous helping for sure, but we had no problem putting it away. Park Chow keeps it simple—therein lies the secret to its success.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tsunami: hoot ... hoot

I have a thing for owls (who doesn't, right?), especially this one: the Hitachino Nest white ale. Hoegaardenesque (read: light and citrusy) in flavor, this Japanese brew was thirst-quenchingly delicious and absolutely the perfect complement to Tsunami's splendid rolls—spicy scallop, hamachi and avocado, spicy tuna and more. If you get to the Western Addition sushi den between 6 and 7, you can get 'em at half-price.

What a deal. We ate a mountain of rolls and came away with greenbacks to spare.

Ain't this purty. It's tasty too. A Tsunami special: supple slabs of waloo (aka butterfish).


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beretta for Some Beverages

and then some. Super pretty and extra special tasty. And coupled with yummy treats like fava bean bruschetta, pan sauteed cauliflower with crispy crumbs and capers, and 2 faboo thin-crust pizzas .... it was just what the doctor ordered.

HEK was enamoured of the candy-striped straw—too bad it deflated in her rummy beverage (paper doesn't take too kindly to booze). No matter. Beretta gets bonus points for trying something different (and for replacing the mangled straw with a sip-worthy one on the double).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

An Everyday Dinner: Pork and Cabbage

Mr. and Mrs. H. came over with their sweet little brood (two babies plus two pooches) for what I hoped would turn out to be some good eats. It's been a while since I've cooked some serious protein in a pan—chalk it up to a (maybe irrational?) fear that I'd lost my touch getting the meat just right since my days as a line cook in New York. But I decided—with Mrs. H's encouragement—to give it a go. The menu for the night: breaded pork medallions and red cabbage with apple, compliments of Everyday Food.

Success! Mr. H., a South African who loves his meat (he can cook a mean lamby on the spit), ate his plate clean and finished a good 15 minutes ahead of us. Mrs. H, who provided a lovely veggy phyllo-dough pie, also tucked it all away. Of course, there was the chance they were just being nice—after all, they're two of my dearest friends. But when I cut into my pork loin, I knew: It was just right. Tender, moist and well-seasoned. Phew. I was so happy and relieved.

Like any home cook would do, I made a few substitutions and switcheroos with the pork and cabbage recipes. Instead of rye bread (crusting the pig), I used a sprouted whole-wheat variation (crammed full of barley malt; millet; sprouted soy beans, corn and lentils), then threw in a bunch of black sesame seeds. Plus, I whacked the crap outta the medallions before breading. And since I couldn't be bothered to buy apple cider vinegar (for just a few tablespoons? I think not) when I had red wine vinegar in the cupboard, I went with that instead for the soury-tart (with some savory bacon high notes) cabbage side dish.

After singing a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday," we enjoyed dessert: sheet cake with blueberries and vanilla ice cream. The recipe I riffed off of called for 2 sticks of butter and cherries. I went with blueberries instead and decided that 1 stick plus 1/2 a cup of apple sauce and a glug of veg oil would do just as well. It did.

And no, it wasn't little V's birthday, but since we were having cake and ice cream, she felt like we should celebrate it again. We were happy to oblige.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Yoshi's Yo-Yo Service

I really wish I could say that I had a good time at new-kid-on-the-block, frou frou japanese resto Yoshi's San Francisco—overall, the food was fab—but the crap-shoot table service pretty much ruined the meal, so much so that JW scrawled a note across the bill explaining why tipping was out of the question. For the steep prices, fine food and swank L.A. industrial surrounds, we expected the service to match. It didn't. Our server seemed like she was on the ball during our first encounter. But first impressions can be so misleading. It was as if she'd forgotten about us—or just didn't care. "Service was spotty. We waited a long time," wrote JW. Yes, we did: between putting in our wine order and actually getting the first pour; receiving the right utensils after being served up our appetizers; getting the bill after waving down a random server to track it down for us ... we really had to work for it, and for all the money we forked over, we shouldn't have.

The app that needed a fork and knife. I asked for 'em and was given exactly that: one fork and knife. WTF? There were 3 of us at the table. Oh, and the prawns? Good, but all the effort that went into getting at the meat made me like it less (if I'd had a clue from the menu that they'd come out with their shells still on, I'd have taken a pass).

Yoshi's buttery soft pillows of sashimi ... fantastic stuff that was nowhere near enough. (Please sir, could we have s'more?)

An out-of-this-world luscious bluefin tuna "akami" tartare with avocado puree, sesame chile tofu bits, crowned with a tiny quail egg, accompanied by a miniature foie gras terrine, crispy gyoza chips and tiny endive spears. I was transported to heaven but brought back to earth with a resounding thud: sucky servers will do that to you ...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Super Food at Terzo

Terzo is a winner. I introduced PH to the small plates Mediterranean joint almost a year ago, and she's just as crazy about Terzo's French-cum-Italian-cum-Moroccan-cum-Spanish-cum-Portuguese food as I am. Tonight, PH's pick of the litter was the free-range chicken spiedini (above left) skewered with crispy bread cubes and generous helpings of cilantro, chiles and onion. We were also pleased as punch with the deep-fried panzarotto (a calzone oozing with fresh mozzarella, sitting in a lovely marinara sauce). We lay waste to all of our dishes—the pungent, lightly sauteed scallops with crisp sugar snaps, the sizzling hot and creamy baked goat cheese with heavenly house-made peach jam on toastettes, the roasted beets with walnuts and creme fraiche (PH, who's never really liked beets, has changed her mind about 'em now: "I guess I never liked 'em because, growing up, my mom used to feed me the awful canned beets. Now I get it. These are really good," she said), and the awesomely thick and flavorful hummus with home-made pita bread spiced with za'atar.

We didn't stop there. We bid adieu with a hefty slice of the spongey midnight cake, allspice ice cream scoop and whipped cream. Well worth the calorie splurge, from start to finish.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Good Time at B44

Went with some work peeps for a Spanish-themed celebration at B44. I'd been to the tapas resto more than half a dozen years ago, but only for drinks so I had no idea that the place puts out some really fine food. One of my fave mags, The Economist, says, "B44 offers a refreshing break from all the nouvelle nosh." And how. IM, our resident Barcelonan, gave it her seal of approval in terms of authenticity and flavor. Here she is demonstrating how to drink vi ranci out of a porro. She was so fast swooping her arm out and back as she poured the sweet wine in a steady stream into her mouth, that I could barely get a shot in. We all gave it a go, but most of us managed to dribble and spew the stuff all over our sheepish faces.

This wine—La Planella 2005—was divine.

A little bit of this, a litte of that: escalivada—warm roasted onions, sweet peppers and aubergine with manchego and sherry vinaigrette.

Dubbed the "five-hour braised in wine" oxtail, this dish was a bit disappointing in that the meat wasn't fall-off-the-bone tender—something I was certain a five-hour braise would ensure. "Hmmm, this is more like a two-hour braised oxtail," I opined. Oh well, it did have some good flavor, and the mashies were deelish.

A little piece of Exxon? No, this ain't no oil sludge. It's a really tasty dish of tender baby squid stuffed with a crumbly fennel sausage, cooked in its own ink.

We had around a dozen toothsome dishes, from the nibble-worthy cheese and charcuterie plates to the vivacious "paella B44" bursting with well-seasoned and spiced chorizo, chicken, mussels, shrimp, squid, clams, peas and peppers. Good stuff, especially when it's on the company bill.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I Miss Split Pea Seduction

Now that I've moved jobs and zip codes, it's really kind of impossible for me to hump on over to Split Pea Seduction for a midday pigfest on its fantabulous salads and addictive crostatas (its home-made cakes and cookies are also hard to resist). Anyway, that's really OK because I've inherited a bunch of great food options in my new work 'hood. But lately, Split Pea has been invading my thoughts ... I'm close to the breaking point—since Mohammed ain't comin' to the mountain, I guess I'll have to plan for a long lunch break soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Taste for Food

PH recently made a soul-satisfying meal of pasta bolognese straight out of the latest issue of Saveur, the magazine that really gets why I and so many others love food—food as it represents culture, heritage, hearth and home. After all, the stories and history provide the real seasoning to every meal.

That and really good ingredients. Like delicate Italian tagliolini that cooks up in 2 minutes.

Plus organic vegetables and meat from responsibly raised animals. (Hey, this is California.)

All washed down with a mellow Bordeaux—winner of the Concours Mondial Bruxelles gold medal—from the Ch√Ęteau du Petit Puch. I found this silky smooth number at K&L Wine Merchants, a veritable treasure trove of grape goodies from all over the world.