Monday, December 28, 2009

In Search of (the Best) Soup Dumplings

I was told by those in the know that Shanghai Dumpling King in the outer Rich puts out the best soup dumplings in the city. So, while the husband was away, JG came out to play ... we decided to give it a go one blustery night.

The verdict? "Meh" from the both of us.

I gotta say, I think King of Noodles' soup dumplings are better, and so are Yank Sing's (see below). (JG agrees with me on the former as he's had them with me—the broth is more flavorful and the meat filling is juicier.)

But oh well, the visit was still worthwhile. We really liked the spicy pork and chive dumplings. The wrappers were tender, the meat super tasty.

I also liked the flaky, crispy green onion pancakes. JG? Not so much.

Yank Sing on Stevenson, not Rincon

Seriously, what's not to like about dim sum ... we inhaled this spread at Yank Sing on Stevenson not too long ago ...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Parker House Rolls Rule

So for Christmas, I decided to try a completely new line-up of sides including the bread accompanying dinner. Last year—and other years past—it's been challah for the holidays, but this year, I thought these Parker House rolls sounded deee-lightful. Yeah, a bit time-consuming, but with all that butter, honey and herbage, well worth the effort. ... And indeed they were.

I pretty much followed directions to a T (though I may have worked in a smidge more flour than the recipe calls for). Since I didn't have a mixer, I worked the dough all by hand, first with the help of a fork, and then with my bare mitts. Super therapeutic this was.

After kneading the dough til shiny, soft and elastic (about 10-15 minutes), I plopped it into a buttered bowl, covered and let rise in a warm place for an hour-plus.

This is how it looked when it came out. I divided the dough in two, per Kate Ramos (lovely author of the Chow recipe), then started working on one half, setting the other aside for later.

I got to rolling it out to about 10x12.

Cut it into 5 strips and then cut those 5 strips into 3s.

Added in the herbaceous butter (mine was heavy on the parsley and thyme since those were what I had lying about this Xmas time) and then folded the pieces in half. I did the same thing with the other half of the dough.

Assembled in a well-buttered 9x13 pyrex per Kate. Then covered again and let rise for another hour or so in a warm place.

After that hour, I slathered on more of the herb-laden butter, then sprinkled with lovely large flakes of sea salt. In they went, into a 350 °F degree oven.

Et voilà!

Some of the best, buttery rolls I've made and frankly ever eaten—the family seconds this opinion.

Adding to holiday cart for years to come.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Doma Cafe, NYC

A great way to start the day ... steel-cut oatmeal with a pile of yummy fruits and steamed milk at Doma Cafe in the West Village.

Monday, November 30, 2009

DIY: Challah

I've made a helluvalot of challah over the years. It's something I first tried my hand at during my college days (when I used to have crazy dreams about baking bread full-time) and has become a firm fixture in my bread-making repertoire ever since. What I really like about this particular loaf is the arts and craftiness involved—braiding and building the 2 tiers of dough that's gotta rise during 2 different sittings, then applying a thorough egg wash to it along with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds.

I'd say this latest one tops all the others. My ma thinks so too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Ever since our fantastic ramen forays at Ippudo in NYC, MC2 and I had been jonesing for something that might satisfy our noodle cravings here in SF.

The question was where to go? I asked around and googled a bunch, finding a couple of possible contenders, but no real standouts. ... And then I remembered: AB, my Lonely Planet writing friend, had praised Korean-Japanese Namu to no end. I checked out the menu and found one ramen bowl on the list.

And not just any ramen bowl. The menu item read like so: Handmade ramen noodles, pork miso broth, slow braised pork, deep fried egg, daily green vegetable, bean sprouts, kimchee $16 (6 orders available daily)

Done and done. With her 13-year-old in tow (see cutey above), MC2 and I hightailed it to the Inner Richmond a week or so ago to see if Namu's Korean-American chefs could do ramen as well as the Japanese could. We sure as hell were rootin' for 'em.

Besides the ramen, there are of course a bunch of other goodies on order at Namu. Like all kinds of tasty pickled veg—from broccoli to Brussels sprouts and yellow beans to cukes.

Oh yeah, and these gorgeous Korean “tacos” — beef short rib with sticky rice, topped with daikon and kimchi salsa, drizzled with a kimchi remoulade and kalbi demi glace all sitting on little squares of nori. OK, so they were a little challenging to pick up and eat, but high marks for their bright flavors and contrasting textures.

Ah, and now the ramen ... The Koreans had taken it and made it their own. Today's green veg was broccoli rabe. The braised pork was oh-so-fork tender. The broth was super savory and perfectly seasoned. And the noodles—irregular in character, firm in texture, not quite your typical Japanese ramen, but excellent nonetheless.

Loved having all that spicy kimchi swimming in the bowl and watching the yolk ooze out after popping the deep-fried egg.

Thank you, Namu and AB!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wild Game Week at The Big 4

I was lucky enough to get an invite last week from my Urban Daddy editor pal to nosh on all kinds of wild game at old-school ritzy resto (think burnished brass, gleaming wood and leather banquettes) The Big 4 in The Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill.

Following is the parade of deliciously succulent and meaty dishes that came streaming out of the kitchen.

My fave app: coffee-cacao and spice rubbed black buck antelope medallions lightly smoked and pan seared with a preserve of white fig and Seville orange, accompanied by a Vermont cheddar crisp, corn-goat cheese fritter and vanilla bean gastrique.

My second-fave app: burnt brown sugar, orange confit, thyme crispy potato crusted wild Nigerian salt prawn with a grilled habañero pineapple, tropical slaw, shaved candied coconut, passion fruit gastrique, and sumac aioli.

Roasted beet and arugula salad with shaved house cured duck prosciutto, ruby grapefruit, roasted red onion confit, with a sherry vinaigrette and pomegranate syrup drizzle.

Crispy chipotle barbequed wild boar carnitas enchiladas rolled in ancho chile crepes, baked with tetila cheese, roasted tomato-chipotle coulis salsa fresca, lime crème fraîche and roasted pumpkin seeds.

SS's main: Wild paella (Valencia country style stew) — giant crispy frog legs, house-made rabbit-rattlesnake sausage (sounds gross, but wow was this tasty), snails, wild Nigerian salt prawns, mussels, spicy saffron rice (crisped up nicely on the bottom of the pan) pequillo peppers, roasted tomatoes, artichokes, garbanzo beans and herbs.

My lumberjack-sized main: roasted rack of Nilgai antelope and saddle of black buck antelope with spiced peach jam-goat cheese blintz, vanilla bean roasted acorn squash, huckleberry gastrique, crispy plantains, candied cherries and huckleberries.

Dessert: a medley of fruit sorbets plus a bubbling hot apple cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream ... Needless to say, we were stuffed to the gills. In a good way.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Banh mi from Banhmai

AR and DL have a pal named Mai who makes a cooler full of banh mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwiches) that she tweets about and then sells off at $7 a pop at South Park. I was keen on giving it a try as I haven't had one of these kinds of sammies since leaving NY.

Back then, I used to live right above one of the best purveyors of banh mi: Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches—I was addicted to the pork chop with pickled carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeno piled into a light and airy baguette slathered with plenty of mayo.

Mai's roast pork with pork pate was packed full of cilantro and came with plenty of pickled carrots and daikon that she gave to us in a little baggy. Though there were plenty of peppers scattered throughout, they weren't spicy. Too bad. A little heat woulda been welcome. And the baguettes, which Mai said she had a hard time getting a hold of that day, weren't crispy and airy like the ones Nicky's uses. Still, a pretty tasty banh mi. Happy to go back for seconds ... and thirds ... and so on.

Monday, November 2, 2009

From Sullivan St. Bakery to Co. Pizza

When MB told me the folks from Soho's Sullivan St. Bakery had landed in Chelsea, I was thrilled. I used to go to Sullivan on a regular basis to lunch on a couple of slices of the thin-crust, yuppy pizzas (think delicate potato, onion and rosemary, simple but divine margaritas, etc.) back when I worked in that hood. Remembering how delightful those 'zas were, I was sure Co. had to be just as good—DY and JC, who live just a couple of blocks away, assured me it was. So off we went ...

Co.'s Popeye pizza was the best of the lot. Sprinkled generously with sea salt and black pepper, the pie had a healthy crowning of fresh spinach and garlic atop a trio of cheeses—pecorino, gruyère and buffalo mozzarella. The crust had a pretty good combo of blistering crunch and soft chewiness.

The meatball pie toppings were really tasty—buffalo mozzarella, tomato, caramelized onions, gaeta olives, veal meatballs, aged pecorino and oregano. Sadly, the crust didn't measure up. Burned in parts and yet still not crispy, dense and heavy throughout. JC and DY both said they've had better at Co. A misstep with this particular pie? Perhaps.

Hmmm, more likely a new cook in the kitchen who didn't know how to work the dough or the 700-degree wood-burning oven for that matter. The boscaiola pork sausage pizza was the least successful in that the liquid from the mushrooms, onions and tomatoes pooled in the center, making this a soggy pie. And the crust itself was a bit heavy and dense, just like the meatball pie's was.

Ah well, the Popeye pizza saved this visit for me. Next time, I think I'll just go straight to the source and pick up a slice or 2 to go at Sullivan St. Bakery.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Standard Grill, NYC

It'd been too long since I saw the CCI gang last, but what fun it was to break bread and catch up at The Standard Grill in the Meatpacking—man, was it hopping, and on a Monday night no less.

Thanks, MS, for making the rezzies. And congrats to D&K! Salud!

I'm not going to go into great detail about what we ate. Suffice it to say that after downing a tasty cocktail (called the "summer bramble"), then splitting 2 bottles of wine and 1 more of champagne, we were all in a very fine mood. That said, the food kept our spirits buoyed. For example, the rich slab of well-cooked and crusted pork belly with apple dice and sauce above.

Loved the tender grilled squid and frisee salad.

The octopus was pretty darn good too, though I'd prolly vote for the squid ahead of the octo in that the texture here was a tad bit on the chewier side.

A medley of stick-to-your-rib sides came out with our mains—like yummy roasted gold and candy striped beets and toasted hazelnuts, smashed potatoes cooked in duck fat (yes!), and brussels sprouts sauteed with bacon.

My server steered me right when he recommended the halibut—tender and moist, sitting atop some crisp-tender asparagus with a really nice hollandaise to add richness to the dish.

MS got some big ol' pepper-crusted lamb chops served up with a splattering of tangy pesto. I thought they were mighty fine.

D&K shared the "demi-vache" dry-aged prime rib steak, which they shared all around ... super tender, juicy and bursting with flavor. Wow.

Standout desserts were the humble pie (filled with rhubarb and served with a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream) and the strawberry fool (strawberries in mascarpone cream, vanilla sponge cake and strawberry granita).